Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ay Zindagi

This one inspired by Rekha's post on faith.

Why is there suffering/pain in a tough situation ?

Sri Sri says "Suffering is a product of limited knowledge"

What limited knowledge ?

The Part I course says " Accept situations and people as they are"

When in pain or suffering, the last thing I want to do is accept. After all who wants pain ? The best solution is to try and escape it and to enable this, the mind is ever willing to :
  • jump into the glorious past
  • jump towards a non-existent future OR
  • take flights of imaginary fancy .
  • keep asking the eternally unanswerable question "Why ?"
None of this helps and muddles the mind even more.

Question to self : Isn't it easier to just accept ?

Another way is resistance.
  • This is NOT happening to me
  • This is not happening to ME.
  • THIS is not happening to me
Another point of the Part I course says "What you resist persists".

When I resist obviously the suffering persists . And what am I resisting ? The flow of life ? I am but a little boat caught up in this ocean of samsara which throws up perfect storms now and then. Of what use is my resistance ?

Question to self : Isn't it easier to not resist, live the knowledge and just BE ?

Guruji says that when we are faced with a storm - to gulp it in its totality and then we realize that there is really no storm .

Reminds me of a beautiful song from the movie Sadma :

Aye Zindagi Gale Lagale
Hum ne bhi
Tere har ik gam ko

Gale se lagaya hai
Hai na ?

Roughly translated :

Oh Life Embrace Me
I've embraced all the suffering you've given me
Haven't I ?

When no knowledge works, faith does ...infinite faith does WORK - especially when the Storm is a long one.

Jai Guru Dev,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Purpose Of Carnatic Music - IMHO

Image Courtesy :

I'll start by saying I have no formal training in Carnatic Music. But growing up in a middle class south-indian family leaves you no choice. The ethereal voice of M.S Subbulakshmi chanting Subrabaatham is as ubiquitous as the cock-a-doodle-doo early in the morning.

I grew up listening to the great compositions of Thyagaraaja , Purandaradasa and other great composers rendered by stalwarts of modern day Carnatic Music such as the inimitable MS, Balamurali Krishna , The Bombay Sisters, Radha Jayalakshmi, Unnirishnan and many others. Though many of my family members were trained in Carnatic music, I never showed interest in getting training in this medium - much to the chagrin of my father.

Maybe I never had the patience for the rigorous sadhana that accompanies learning this amazingly complex medium. Maybe my mind wandered too much and experimented too much with reading, sports, extra curricular activities , much like a butterfly that courts a flower only as long as it had sweet nectar to offer. Maybe.....

More recently I have been having rancorous debates with my dad - a big-time carnatic music enthusiast and aficionado and an amateur violinist . He can quickly recognize raagas like most other enthusiasts, easily recall which song was composed by which composer, the life history of the get the picture. And I cant do any of the above.

Me : Dad, today's singers are too commercial. They don't sing in devotion, only to show their talent and make fame and money.

Dad : They are like any other professional, some are dedicated, some are not.

Me: But Dad, Carnatic music is ALL about the Divine - every word.

Dad : Everything is all about the Divine, are all professionals devoted to their professions.

Me : The composers of yore were saints first and singers only after that. Today's singers are well....just singers.

Dad : Yes

Me : Dad , the purpose of Carnatic music is to take you deep within yourself - in touch with your being. The raagas dont matter, the words dont matter, the singer does not matter.

Dad : But it is the raags, the rendition and the words that take you deep within.

Me : But Dad ......

Sullen Silence . Nobody Wins.

I guess we are both coming to the same truth from different angles.

For my dad, complete appreciation of music means knowing about it as well - the composer, his/her life, the raaga, the variations, the renditions etc.

For me , music is an experience, just closing my eyes and dissolving in the sound. It does not matter what is being sung - A Bollywood number, a gazhal, a bhajan, a carnatic composition. It has to touch me deep within. If so the song has served its purpose. If not...something is missing. I became really aware of this during the deep bhajan satsangs we used to have in the Bay Area.

As Guruji Says : "Singing helps to bring serenity. Singing is simply merging into the sound, floating on its waves with sense of contenment and meditativeness"

Whats your experience like ?

Jai Guru Dev,

Guruji in Dallas

Nice Video .

Jai Guru Dev,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Happy Diwali

(Image Courtesy : )

A festival has different flavors - the holidays (fun time) , the shopping for clothes, gifts (fun material time) , family and friends (people time), food (yum time :) ) ,rituals (pooja and prayer time), mythology (story time) and celebrations.

At the core though is the essence of any festival - what it stands for . Diwali is all of the above and also represents the triumph of good over evil - not just in the world, but also within us .

Here is wishing you all the essence and everything else this Diwali !!

For those of you with Guruji this Diwali - well lucky you :)

Here is a beautiful article on Diwali by Guruji :

Diwali is lighting :

The lamp of love in one's heart;

The lamp of abundance in one's home;
The lamp of compassion to serve others;
The lamp of Knowledge to dispel darkness

Every lamp that you light is symbolic of a good quality. There are good
qualities in every human being. Some have forbearance, some have love, strength, generosity; others have the ability to accept all as one' own, yet others have a scientific temperament that will uplift humanity; and others have the ability to unite people from all religions. A latent talent is a lamp. When latent talents awaken, that is Diwali. Don't be satisfied with simply lighting one lamp; light a thousand. Eg. If you are a good sevak, don't be satisfied only with that; light the lamp of wisdom in you. Acquire knowledge. If you are interested in acquiring knowledge, don't limit yourself only to that. Take an interest in the creative arts, in dance, music etc.

Do you know why we do aarti? It is so that light of our life always rotates
around the Divine.

Do you know why we burst crackers? We suppress many emotions within ourselves;
cravings, aversions, hatred or too much attachment and we reach bursting point. When there are a lot of worries, people say, "I feel my head is going to burst." If there is a lot of sorrow, people say, "My heart is going to burst." Knowing this experience, the ancient people said that when you see an explosion outside, you feel similar sensations within you as well. Along with the explosion, there is so much light. Similarly by lighting the crackers, when there is an explosion outside, you release the suppressed emotions and become hollow and empty. You become free and are able to celebrate the festival and distribute sweets.

The darkness is dispelled, light has come
into the house, and joy spreads. This is a festival of joy. For the wise man, Diwali is every moment and every day.

Diwali - the Festival of Lights. The streets and buildings are lit up with colorful lights.

The four aspects of Diwali:

1. Lights: symbolizing the spreading of Knowledge.
2. Firecrackers: Watching the firecrackers gives a
relief to the explosive tendencies inside. When the explosion happens outside, the explosion inside is diffused.
3. Gift exchange and distribution of sweets: Sweets
dispel the bitterness and renew the friendship.
4. Feeling abundance: Feeling a sense of abundance brings awareness and gratefulness for what one has.

When this wisdom dawns, it gives rise to celebration.
However, in celebration you may lose your focus or awareness. The ancient Rishis knew this, so to maintain awareness amidst the gaiety of celebration, they brought sacredness and puja to every event.

- H.H.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Happy Diwali , Jai Guru Dev,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Music and Memory

Its quite amazing. I've been observing how music is an an index into my memory. Just a strain or note from a song and the mind floats back into its database called the memory and transports me back suddenly to events in my life that I thought I had forgotten. ( can I think about something if I have forgotten it ? But I digress.)

Its almost like placing a stylus on record groove - the memory starts playing the song that life sang way back when.


Here are a few songs(not necessarily my most favorite and in no particular order) and the events they take suddenly me back to. (I know we drop the past in the Art Of Living but sometimes this painful indulgence is a little sweet - even if bitter-sweet).

I Just Called To Say I Love You (Stevie Wonder) : I went to an all boys school. At the bottom of the hill was our sister institution - thats right - the all girls school. They used to have a fund raiser each year - called the fancy fete (why they called it that - I don't know) - a highly anticipated event. This song was the number 1 for many years - played as requests from guys to gals.

Papa Kehte Hain Bada Naam Karega : Released right around our Std 10 farewell party (junior high graduation), this song was a super-hit from the Bollywood flick "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak". Someone sung it at the farewell - as we all stood there with goosebumps - at the threshold of our teen years, suddenly realizing that we would never be school kids again - wondering what lay ahead.

Tujhe Dekha To Yeh Jaana Sanam : A hit from the Bollywood movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge . I was alone in Nashik working on a tough project, struggling to make sense of people - situations - life in my early professional years. This song would play on the movie promos on television each night as I snuggled into my hotel bed, glad the day was over, surrendering my pain, confusion and uncertainty to the night, wishing the next daylight would never come.

Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu : This a prayer chant glorifying the qualities of the Mother Divine chanted during Navaratri . We had no TV when I was young and I would love listening to this on All India Radio early in the morning.

As Long As You Love Me : A Backstreet Boys hit number released in 1998 as I first set foot on foreign land. Expectation, a foreboding feeling, exuberance, apprehension, obligation, excitement all played in my mind as my friend drove me to work each day blasting this on his car speakers.

Unbrake My Heart : A Toni Braxton hit. Also brings back visions of driving into Cupertino each morning awaiting an interview.

Nahin Samne : A beautiful number from the Bollywood flick - Taal - an A.R Rahman composition. I remember sitting in the passenger seat of my friend's car when this wafted through the speakers. Instinctively my eyes closed and i was quietly humming this song till the very end asking my friend to play it repeatedly until he went :( . Rahman's delicate Sufi touch is soooooo beautiful.

He Nanda Nanda Gopala : A beautiful Vikram bhajan. I had attended satsang for years, never had the guts to lead a bhajan. One day determined to sing, I went to satsang. A bhajan voice and sweat broke out simultaneously...finally breaking the ice...with myself.

Gita Govindam : Rendition by Unnikrishnan. I was leaving to go buy groceries when my dad played this on the cassette player. I remember stopping in my tracks, taking off my footwear and running back in asking my dad - What did you just play ? Over the years this tape has taken me very deep each time I played it.

Maa : A bhajan collection by Jagjit Singh. First heard it at U's place during an Ashtavakra Gita session. Hey Govind Hey Gopala..will forever be imprinted on my memory. I then discovered that the gazhal king also sang soulful bhajans. I remember meditating so deeply after listening to this one.

Hey Ram Hey Ram : Another Jagjit Singh beauty. Takes me back to the Ashtavakra Gita sessions. Deeply meditative....

Kaisi Hai Yeh Rut : A beautiful Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy number from Dil Chahta Hai rendered by Srinivas. Just goes deep....dunno where.

And So Many More ......

Jai Guru Dev,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stood Up and Spoke Out

Today after Long Kriya, about a 100 of us stood up and took an oath to support and implement the goals of the Millenium Development Goals program of the United Nations. What we heard was not new, but for a mind just cleansed and more aware with long kriya, some facts were very hard-hitting :
  • 30 thousand children D I E every day of poverty .
  • 3 thousand youth fall prey to HIV every day .
and many more I cannot readily recollect .

It was a solemn and sincere 10 minutes of standing with our hands raised as we took a pledge. S Bhaiyya administered the oath in his signature sincere yet enthusiastic manner.

Somewhere a sense of deep gratitude arose for everything I have in life and a sense of empathy towards those who don't.

We each pledged to plant a tree, put some money and food aside every day that would be put towards the cause of eradicating hunger and poverty.

We ended with an unusual but interesting slogan :)


Jai Guru Dev,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One = Infinity

I never learned Sanskrit properly. I had a chance about 22 years ago during summer break, but I was firm in my belief that the summer holidays were meant for enjoyment and NOT roting. So enjoy I did and blew my chance to dwell deeper into Devavani (Deva = God , Vani = speech/language) - literally "Language of the Gods".

For a few years the word "Dehant" has been popping up quite often in my head. Literally and colloquially it means "Death" and is used in a respectful manner to describe someone's passing - as opposed to "Maut", the more common term.

Breaking it up, we find it is is actually a compound ("Deh" = Body, "Ant" = End). In other words "Death = End Of the Body" .

I was wondering why it was necessary to emphasize the body so much. Isn't death the end of everything ? Not so say the scriptures - The Bhagavad Gita, The Yoga Vasishta, Vedanta.

Guruji says that death is just like a long sleep from which we don't get up.

Deh-Ant : If it is only the body that ends, what does NOT end ? The mind - with all its impressions - good and bad. The undying spirit that we all are !

I was astounded at how much meaning a simple, single word could express !! Just one word captures the very essence of philosophy, the scriptures, the very meaning of LIFE.

Its so interesting - we spend so much money, time and effort on caring for, obsessing over and lusting at this perishable bag of bones and flesh that is going to be either burnt to ashes, buried 6 feet under or fed to the vultures. And so little or no time over nourishing that which is eternal, undying - the spirit. People spend thousands on clothes, perfumes, gym memberships, beauty salons , eating out etc., but crib when you ask them to spend a few dollars/rupees/currency of your choice on doing the Art Of Living course.

Ah when will they understand ?

Guruji explains why chanting is so much more powerful in Sanskrit. He says that the mind is very old and so is the Sanskrit language. These chants thus have a powerful effect on the mind when chanted correctly .

I have to learn SANSKRIT someday !

Jai Guru Dev,

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bliss 2008 : Sri Sri Ravishankar in the US

Looks like its raining blessings in the USA . Guruji Sri Sri Ravishankar is going to be touring the US and there are so many beautiful opportunities to meet HIM .

And if you are REALLY lucky, you can celebrate DIWALI with HIM. Just imagine - the depths of silence exploding into eruptions of Joy !

Diwali Advanced Course :

Mahalaxmi Puja :

Are you the lucky ONE ? Self Effort Brings Grace !!

Jai Guru Dev,

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Smiling Through

It was during Guru Poornima 2006 - my first and only so far - with Guruji . In a huge hall at the San Matep Expo Center, CA. We were all participants in the "Yoga and Meditation Seminar" (also called PDS in India), being led by none other than Sri Sri Ravishankar.

About 300 of us were twisted like pretzels in a difficult pose - grunting, sweating and breathing at the same time, when Guruji's soft ethereal voice wafted over the microphone "Smiling In a Difficult Pose Is Yoga" .

Boom..crash...flash of lightning...the whole town visible from a hilltop.....Aho !

Suddenly it was so clear what He was saying - If you can smile through tough times in life, you have attained that state called Yoga. This was the MOST amazing definition of Yoga I had ever heard in my life.

The essence of the Bhagavad Gita says the same thing. Krishna exorts Arjuna to fire the arrow, but from a state of calmness. In the midst of what would have been a world war in those days, when Arjuna was in the most tumultous of times in his life, Krishna asked him to be centered and do his duty - no matter how difficult.

Guruji says this very directly too - The sign of success is your SMILE.

Ah - that elusive SMILE :) :) . Every week, at Long Kriya, the teacher asks us to do the same thing again and again - S M I L E. At times I feel like...Grr...just get on with the pranayams already, but its clear that the goal of Art Of Living is not just to teach folks a few asanas and breathing techniques - it is to bring back that lost smile on people's faces.

Especially on faces like mine that look perenially like :( .

And this smile has to be from within - not the polite smile that masks the agony from within - not the "Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho, Kya Gam Hai Jisko Chupa Rahe Ho" Smile, but the SMILE of the BEING ! The SMILE that shines through the clouds of darkness, misery, desires, failures, setbacks. The SMILE that makes others forget that they are in misery .

And after all who is not subject to miserable events ? Krishna had his uncle plotting his murder before he was even born and was hounded by him for years. Guruji's own mother Amma fell a victim to cancer when Guruji was about to address thousands at a satsang hundreds of miles away. Buddha had to leave his family and kingdom and walk away to attain nirvana. Jesus was nailed to the cross for showing people the path of love. The difference between these noble souls and us : The SMILE never went away even in these tough situations. These situations were just events to them, not problems.

When Will I really SMILE ? Well until then as they say in the Art Of Living "Fake It Till You Make It" !!

" You sell you happiness for peanuts! You sell your smile for pennies! I tell you, it's not worth it. The entire world is not worth your smile. Even if you are made the king or the emperor of the world, it's not worth giving away your smile. " - Sri Sri Ravishankar
Oh Gurudev, you have so much to give - am I ready to receive ? How much will I receive in this lifetime ? The Yoga Vasishta says "Self Effort" .

Jai Guru Dev,

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Is Life.... ?

Is Life Worth Living ? It depends upon the liver - so goes the old adage / joke !

I've been reading Yoga Vasishta for about 2 months now after meditating and a question comes up often : Why this foolish creation? Why the pain and suffering? Why the avatars ? Why the dualities ? Why the roller-coaster ride of pleasure and pain ? Whats the point of this creation if all is anyway ONE ?

If just ONE consciousness exists then why can't just 1 consciousness BE ?

Why create these individual small minds, let them make mistakes, gain bad karma, then provide a Guru to show them the path, allow them to suffer on it and then finally go back to where you were anyways - in the Self ?

What has been achieved ?

Why is the wave allowed to be separate from the ocean ?

Agar Duniya Aisi Hai to Aisi Yeh Duniya Kyon Hai ? (from a lovely song from the movie Saath Saath, I think) .

Are folks like Sage Vasishta, Krishna, Guruji and others exempt from pain and samsara ? Were they always enlightened ? If I am God, then why am I not like them, why do I have to suffer a million births before getting to where they are ?

Just occurred to me that whenever these questions came up in my mind, the quality of life wasn't that great. Disappointments, hardships, unfulfilled desires, a sacrifice to be made, pain...whatever be the reason, my mind was never at rest. When I was happy, my mind never questions anything, I am just floating in the bliss of that moment !!!!!!!!!!

Guruji has simple answers for this : Wonder About It ! God Loves Fun !

Haan Guruji .....Par Yeh Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin Guruji !!!

More sadhana, satsang, knowledge, only if life allowed me to fully soak in all these...sigh.....Accept the situation as is.

Jai Guru Dev,

Thursday, October 2, 2008

For Those Missing Guruji ..........

Missing Guruji badly ? Yeah I know...Me Too :(

So very much right now. Its Navarathri and everybody who is somebody or nobody is in the Bangalore Ashram and I can't go.

Well I have to just feel his presence and youtube videos.

Here are a couple of beautiful ones I found from Navarathri 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Smile if you can :)

2004 :

2006 :

2007 :

Jai Guru Dev,