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Key to Happiness : A Few Insights from Ashtavakra Mahageeta

Ashtavakra Muni can be said to be one of the most rational sages we ever had in India. We often think that spirituality is very thinly related to rationality. The root of this misconception lies in the fact that we, our relationships and our society primarily works through a false structure. The structure itself is irrational and hence, we often find spirituality irrational. In very simple words, if my ruler itself is bent, I will find every straight line skewed. Some of the fundamental truths which Ashtavakra Muni explains in a very straight-forward language, might appear to be absolutely illogical to us. Yet, I am going to talk about a few of them. 

Throughout his Mahageeta, Ashtavakra talks about Sakshibhava (साक्षीभाव) which simply means to be a witness. He calls this witness Drashta (द्रष्टा). Who is witness? A witness is that part of us, or rather that state of being where we just observe things and events without getting affected by them or their outcomes. A witness is concerned about witnessing what is happening and has zero attachment to what happens. Generally, whenever we look at something, we look at it with some sort of attachment. We are concerned more with the outcome as it might either be favourable to us or might also be detrimental to us. When we truly become a witness, Ashtavakra highlights, we move in a state where nothing can affect us; there is nothing favourable and nothing harmful or detrimental. 

Osho, in his volumes of Ashtavakra Mahageeta has explained the concept of ‘Drashta’ or witness in a very unique way. With little help from him, I would be trying my best to simplify what Ashtavakra is hinting at when he says be a Sakshi or Drashta. 

We normally exist in three states. The first mode of being is a Drishya (दृश्य) which means ‘object of someone’s attention’. In this state of being, we strive to be an object of someone’s attention. Most of us are in this state most of the times. We want to get noticed, we want to be talked about. All of us in some way or the other, keep trying to be an object of people’s attention. Our interactions and updates on social media are a testimony to this thirst of almost all of us. The root of our desire to be a ‘Drishya’ is the hollowness that we find within ourselves. We want people to look at us so that we can portray we have some ‘substance’ and we are not hollow. 

The next state of being is Darshak (दर्शक) or the viewer. For someone to be a Drishya, there have to be at least a few Darshaks. While some people try becoming Drishya to fill up their hollowness, some try doing that by being a Darshak. Being a Darshak is far easier than being a Drishya and that’s why, whenever people find a Drishya, they gather around him or her. A Darshak looks at things out of his or her boredom and out of inability of looking within oneself. When a child is bored with one toy, it chases the other; in same way, a Darshak keeps moving from one Drishya to the other. 

When a child is bored with one toy, it chases the other; in same way, a Darshak keeps moving from one Drishya to the other. 

The third state of being is a Drashta (द्रष्टा), the Sakshi or the Witness. A witness is not an ordinary viewer like Darshak. For Drashta, Darshak is Drishya. Which means, a true witness is no more interested in looking at others. He is no more concerned with what happens outside. He observes how the Darshak in him/her is eluded by the Drishya/s outside. 

What Ashtavakra says about being a Drashta, the same thing has been said by Sant Kabir, in a very different language:

बुरा जो देखन मैं चला, बुरा न मिलिया कोई। 

जो मन खोजा अपना, तो मुझसे बुरा न कोई।।

(I started searching for the devil but could not find anyone. When I searched inside me, realised, the devil is inside me!)

This is the whole gist of being a witness. Looking at oneself; closely observing how we get dragged away and get attached to what we see around us. Once we start understanding how we attach our personal interests to each and everything happening around us, we start realising how being detached from these things leads us to acceptance.  

The outcome of being a Sakshi is to arrive at the magic key to happiness : acceptance. 

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Idol Worship : What Every Person in the Age of Science Should Know

Entering Poorngarh
Entering Poorngarh

Idol worshipers are always looked down as ‘tribal people’ by the progressive ones. Certainly, idol worship is probably one of the oldest forms of worship and is condemned much these days. Western world especially associates idol worship with lack of awareness, education and scientific mind set. While I am exploring philosophy and spirituality for a few years, I was personally never fond of idol worship. What I saw last week, gave me a totally different perspective.


Floral Decoration at Pallinath Temple
Floral Decoration at Pallinath Temple

I happened to spend my last weekend in Konkan, the coastal area of Maharashtra state of India. I and my wife were in Konkan to perform Kirtan in a small temple in Poorngarh. I have visited Konkan for quite many times but this was first time that I interacted people over there. I do Kirtans because it takes me closer to people and gives a platform to share my thoughts and no-thoughts. It was quite surprising and delightful to see hundreds of the devotees singing and dancing along with us. After the Kirtan was over, people there were still singing and dancing, not bothered about time. They were all dancing and rejoicing because it was birthday of Lord Hanuman, someone whom they had never seen in their lives. I somewhere realized that we have lost our ability to rejoice without a reason. We always need reasons and causes; we do nothing if there is no cause and hence, our life is controlled by the causes.

Soon after the Kirtan, we headed to Deole, a small village in Kokan where my wife’s grandmother has a typical ‘Konkani’ house with mango, coconut, and cashew and many more plants in the yard. After reaching Deole, we had lunch and retired for rest as I was driving for a long time the earlier night. After a bit of rest, we had a walk around this small village, contained wholly in a radius of 1 km. This tiny village has four temples, clean and maintained very well, decorated with fresh flowers, with proper arrangements to prevent dogs and other stray animals from entering.

Idol of Lord Pallinath
Idol of Lord Pallinath

In the night, all of us went to a temple some 15 km away as they had celebrations going on. Though I otherwise avoid going to temples, I was quite interested to see the celebrations. Within half an hour we reached this temple of Lord Pallinath. The arrangement of flowers and earthen lamps was enough to take me to a different world. The bright yellow and amber color of petals, the array of earthen lamps, boxes of sweets, devotees running around to see that everything is going fine, bright colors of cloths of gods…everything was heavenly. Inside, there was the idol, lit by lamps in the front.

After the Darshan, we sat in the assembly hall and prayers started. The temple had Tabla, Organ and other musical instruments. Soon, hundreds of the devotees started singing the prayers and this was the point which completely transported me. Hundreds of voice coming together to sing one song.  I had learnt from my wife that there were quarrels on going between the trustees of the temple. I wondered what could be the intensity of these prayers had there been no conflicts! Idol worship is beautiful…..

I know, idol worship has raised hundreds of problems in front of us. Honestly, we have built up same problems in modern social structure also and hence, I think, no point in blaming idol worship. A very commonly raised point is exploiting people based on their belief in idol worship. The solution to stop this exploitation is not condemning idol worship. Doctors are also exploiting patients every day on a much larger quantum; are we going to ban study of medicine? It is worth considering that there are always some people who take the benefit of their position in terms of resources and start exploiting others. Same has happened with idol worship. Should we not spare idol worship from the condemnation?

My time spent in spiritual world tells me that idol worship is the most blissful way towards self-realization.  Someone will certainly raise the question- ‘So many people are worshiping idols, why no one reaches the state of realization?’

This question is as foolish as asking- ‘So many boys and girls are going to school and why only a fraction of them get Nobel Prize?’

Attaining self-realization is certainly more difficult than winning a Nobel Prize. People are worshipping idols for ages but only handful of them have attained enlightenment simply because most of them do it as a custom and not out of their longing and love. Anything when reduced to a custom or a formality loses its value and potential to bring about a change. Same has happened with everything- education, values, religions, meditation; and idol worship is no exception.

The prayers in the temple continued for half an hour. Out of two hundred devotees there, some were singing because they were supposed to sing; a few had already left for the dinner; few were physically present, but mentally absent, may be wandering hundreds of miles away; and yes, there were one or two of them, pouring out their hearts while singing, drenched in devotion. I guess, they were these one or two of them who brought in the magic and divinity in the atmosphere. I think, because of these two devotees, who were singing from their heart, the temple was electrified, with a delicate field which could transport someone with a bit of awareness into an altogether different world.

It is very easy to condemn a system, idol worship in this case. It is quite easy to offer an alternate system be condemning the existing system. It is impossible to keep the system intact, away from the hands of exploiters. Though crippled by exploiters, idol worship still offers the possibility of creating this delicate electric field, which I am afraid alternate systems proposed by progressive people cannot offer.



Sorting Out the Tangled Life

“In order to end an issue, you do not need to fight. You just have to put some light of awareness on the issue.” I often remember these wonderful words of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, one of the most revolutionary spiritual masters we ever had on this earth.
I often go through instances which prove how valid Gurdjieff’s words and his insight are. One of such instances took place a couple of days ago.

My day was over and I was retiring into my bed, to sleep. I don’t like to embrace the sleep becoming unaware, losing my awareness step by step. So, I make it a point to listen to Osho’s words before I sleep. Ultimately I enter the unfathomable depth of unawareness but still, Osho’s words make a good companion when you are unaware.
I was already late and my wife was already in her sleep. The lights were off and the room dark. Thanks to my everyday habit, I could catch hold of my headphones lying in my bed without putting on lights.
But, the headphones were all tangled. As my wife was sound asleep, I avoided putting on the lamps and thought of sorting them out in the dark. I tried for around fifteen minutes but was unable to sort out the tangled headphones. Finally, I put on the lights. I realized that I had made the situation even worst. With the lights turned on, I could sort the headphones within a minute.
This incidence reminded me of Gurdjieff and the light of awareness about which he talked. Our life is tangled and when unaware, we make the situation even worse. What we need is light- a bit of our own awareness and life is sorted.


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Stephen Hawking and his ‘No-God’ – Does God Exist?

I happened to read an article on web which mentions an interview where Stephen Hawking, the famous astrophysicist declares that there is no god, and he says that he is an atheist. I am a student of both the fields- science and spirituality. At the same time, this topic of constant debate around man vs. the divine is of special interest to me.

I completely respect the views and opinions of Stephan Hawking but I necessarily do not agree with the same. It is funny to watch the conclusions which others draw from statements of others. Something similar has happened with this interview given by Stephen Hawking. Of course, the web is flooded with endless discussions and debates.

As I have already mentioned, I respect the opinion of Stephen Hawking which is a result of his own study over the years. At the same time, I trust my own experiences and my own contemplation also. Many times, I am asked this question at different events or talks- Is there a god? Can we find him out? Can man acquire all that is needed to be a god?

The diminishing God

Long ago, man was at a very primitive stage of scientific development and hence, many things were absolutely unknown. This made a large room for believing in a god. Later, as science advanced, and we discovered more and more about this universe, men started to realize- that nothing in this world can remain unknown for a long time. This gave a lot of boost to scientists and explorers. And today, all of them are hoping, soon will come a time when man knows everything, rather, everything about everything. This will completely destroy the room for the god.

It seems, that Stephen Hawking has sensed this right now and hence has concluded that god does not exist. A man of meditation will simply laugh on all of this. It seems that most of the Scientists have not at all understood the concept of god. If they still think that god is the one who has created this world and is busy doing miracles, they are absolutely wrong. If they think that god is a person, monitoring everything which is happening around, they are again wrong.

The sad story about this fellow named god is, people have concluded that their ideas of god is god and then they defeat their own idea and claim that there is no god.

God cannot be reduced to a particle, or to a person like us or even to a super-man who can manage things just at his whim.

Scientists can find out answers to all the problems which they today find un-solvable and still, the god will remain as mysterious as he is. Eventually, man is bound to be able to control the minutest of the things happening around and still, the mystery around the god will get multiplied.

Finding out the god- Is science the way?

In the universe, we get what we look for. So, if that thing does not exist, your mind will create it and then you will get it. Those who want answers, they get the answers and those who are not bothered about knowing and getting answer, they get an actual taste. This separates out scientists from seekers. In case of a scientist, the more he goes on knowing, more he wants to know. I remember reading Richard Feynman, where he had wisely said that a scientist should be comfortable with the fact that there are many things which are beyond his understanding- which cannot be broken down in formulae and mathematical models. Most of the scientists, cannot remain happy if something is unknown to them. On the other hand, in case of a seeker, he seeks something only at the initial stages. As he walks along the path, he is not at all bothered about knowing anything. He no more seeks something. He gets a different kind of understanding. Let us assume that a scientist finds out that there is no god. What next? How is it going to change the lives of others? Keep that aside, has the scientist himself gained anything in the process? Nothing except a few formulae and may be structure of some complex mathematical models.  Look at a seeker- he gets transformed on the way. His greed, lust, anger drop on the way. The farther he goes, purer he becomes. He develops a unique sense about him and the entire universe around him- which cannot be captured in any formula or model.

I think this discussion – whether god exists or not is nothing but a question which is constantly being harped by insecure human ego. He wants to make sure that nothing over powers him. He somehow wants to convince himself that he is the one who controls everything. This is a falsity as nature doesn’t operate through the principle of controlling but it operates through the principle of freedom.

Scientists are doing their work and I wish they meet success on the way. As Stephen Hawking has said, there might not be a god who supervised the Big-Bang and is breaching our privacy by controlling our lives. A lover of god is not interested in all this, nor will he get disturbed by reading all this; as he is not interested in any destination but is simply walking the way, enjoying every bit of it, getting transformed every step.



The magic of relaxed control

Generally, people look at life in two different ways. They either assume that everything which happens around is for the sake of good, inevitable and cannot be changed or they assume that everything around us can be and needs to be changed. On the occasions of different talks, given to different audiences, I always receive one common question –

What is the correct way of looking at life? Do all the things which happen with us are good? If yes, then should we accept the things which are wrong, not so favourable?

Each one of us has this conflict inside him or her. People either want to change things which are around them or they just give up trying to change the things. While I was in engineering, I had many friends who had surrendered their lives and had stopped taking any efforts. It is very surprising to see these brilliant students sleeping in their rooms- saying that nothing is in our hands. On other hand, we had even a bigger number of students who tried to change everything. One may wonder, what is wrong if someone tries to control things around him? The problem with second group of people is very subtle- they become very insecure when things start going beyond their control. As we all know, very few things are truly under our control and we human beings are unable to control even smallest of the things around us in spite of advancements in technology. So, I always used to wonder, what can be the right attitude? I think, we have to treat the physical world around us and the turbulence inside our minds in different ways.  I have come up with a golden rule-

In case of external affairs, we should always assume that they are happening for something better. In case of internal matters, we should always keep on looking for improvement.

At first sight, this may sound very absurd and impractical. My experience says, this is the best way to sail ahead. As far as outer events are concerned, we should always carry the approach that it is happening for making things better. But, while doing so, we should always have a keen eye matters inside us- our thoughts, our desires, ego and should always try to improve. As far as our mental and emotional status is concerned, we should always have a sense of incompleteness which calls for continuous improvement. The differentiation helps in many ways. First of all, it tells us that not many things are in our hands. It makes us comfortable with this reality. At the same time, it allows us to focus our energy on what’s there in our hands- self improvement. In most of the cases, we keep on wasting our energy thinking about things which are not in our hands and keep on neglecting the things which are under our control. This golden rule helps us to focus our energy on what can be improved by us and keeps us relaxed about things are anyway not in our control.

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Do you want to sustain?

When someone from completely different field enters some other field, he looks at the things in a totally different perspective. I am in somewhat similar position. I never took efforts to read typical corporate literature. Somehow, I am trying to make myself comfortable with all these terms. The result is, I end up interpreting the established proverbs and statements in a completely different way.

Today, I came across one line, which is very attractive and at the same time very important for those who are in corporate world. The line is something like this-

If you do yesterday’s things today, you won’t be able to survive tomorrow.

This line is so true, if you look at it from the view of normal life. By normal life I mean all the things which normal human beings like us do. It holds true on all the walks of life, equally applicable to students, managers, entrepreneurs, businessmen etc. In today’s world, as we know it very well, one has to move ahead of time, innovating new things. To be honest, it is difficult to survive today if you do today’s things today. One always has to keep on doing new things, new experiments, new products, new services and new thoughts.

As it can be clearly seen, many companies are investing their huge cash reserves to invent and realize tomorrow’s products. There is no final destination as we are moving ahead very rapidly. As I said earlier, this is true for ‘normal humans’. Are their any dimensions of our life where this line is not applicable?

Yes, there are many. One of the most striking example is that of music. Of course, musicians are creative and they keep on doing new things. But, the fact which one should keep in his mind is, they never run behind creating new things. They are effortlessly creative. That creativity does not have any purpose. I am not at all comparing which one is good and which one is bad; they are just different ways of different fields. In classical music, we have many great artists and musicians who just focused on understanding their master’s knowledge. In that complete surrender, many creative compositions came out.

One more walk of life, where I think this line would not be applicable is meditation. In meditation, the meditation is old, ancient; the experiences are new and unique. It wont make any sense doing new new meditations each day, for being creative. You have to do the same, yesterday’s meditation every day. In case of human consciousness, we run to new things not out of creativity but to escape the old things. In meditation, there is no escape. You cannot run away, you have to face same things, the same ‘you’ everyday.

I guess, here the ‘MadhyamMarga’ mentioned by Lord Buddha or the concept of ‘Zorba the Buddha’ coined by Osho comes into picture. Is it possible to survive in both material and spiritual world together? One step ahead, does the word ‘survival’ has meaning in spirituality?

At this stage, I am asking myself, ‘Do you want to sustain?’


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Find your focus

A long night of thoughtfulness gives me many answers. I love night because it answers my questions. Not all, but even a few questions being answered is enough for me. I don’t want all of the rains, a few soothing drops satisfy me.

For whom I live this life? This was the long question which was being answered by the night. If a constant enquiry is made, answers come from void. Void does not exist somewhere else, but, you are so united with the enquiry, that inside you, you get a void. So, this was the question. Does life need focus? If yes, who should be the focus? Is this focus inside or is it outside?

Night answered all of these. It gave me many strange answers. No, life does not have a focus but, but, to reach this point, we need some focus point. Now, where this focus point lies? Inside me or outside me?

I would say, grossly, there two kinds of spiritually inclined people. One kind is those who love themselves and like to live for themselves. The other is those who like to live for someone they love.  The wonder is, everything moves on love.

The person on his spiritual journey has to decide what his attitude is. And then whatever tendencies of him come against this attitude, he should work on them. For example, if I love myself, then to fulfill my needs, I should be able to fight with even god. If I like to live for my loved one, I should be able to leave away all the heavens and pleasures on earth.

I have found my focus. Have you?


A temple in the river and mystical mystic

Currently I am on my visit to Gondiya, which is the youngest District in the state of Maharashtra. Gondiya has been blessed with huge forests and a very rich wild life. Along with all this, there are many temples each having its own story, each having its own legend.

Temple in the river

I go on wandering without fault when I am there. So, one day was reserved especially for a temple which I used to see while going through my car. This temple was at the very center of the river flow and was accessible only for particular span of the year. So, one day was specially reserved for this temple.

The temple was a normal temple with the priest claiming it to be an awakened temple, where all the wishes are granted. I did not have any wish so was wandering outside the temple. Then, we went to one small room which was used by a mystic to live. He was a Sarpanch and left his job all of the sudden and did not come out of that room for a long time of 35 years.

I do not know anything about the mystic. This country is full of people who claim to be a mystic. There are innumerable stories of people being cheated by these mystics. So, when you go to the place of a mystic, your mind is always more doubtful than having trust. So, I did not know the mystic, but the place created a very mystical mood within me.

A beautiful Bhajan was being sung by some local singer which was of far lower quality than what I always hear. Notes of the singer were imperfect, but the ambiance was perfect, totally mystical. The singer was asking human being to wake up. He was constantly saying just two lines- Ab jag jara, Ab jag jara (Please wake up now, please wake up a bit.) This sincere request, touched my heart and yes, I was awake for a moment. That moment was enough for me.

It was a dark night. I was walking back to my car through the sands of the dried river. The song was still haunting me, still appealing mystic inside me- Please wake up now, please wake up a bit………

With heavy feet and sad heart, i started the car and left for the home……


It is better that we die

This can be rather a bit shocking post title to read for all of the readers here. I have been always know as a life celebrating person. Today too, I am not at all life negative. I am not at all worried or under tension. It is generally observed that those who prove to be unsuccessful in their lives, write these types of posts. So, the very first point, I love life and I celebrate it.

But still, when I look around at the people, the way we all live, I feel that this is not the way to live. I can see that all the flowers are being crushed; under traditions, under so called rubbish prestige issues, under dogmas and what not. So, the very first thought, that comes within is, it is better to die than to live such a life.

But again, I come to realize that death is not going to solve the problem. If we die, we are being an ostrich.  When ostrich sees some danger, it puts its head in the sand. Ostrich feels, when he is not seeing the problem, the problem does not exist. Even if we do not, the problems exist. So, when you feel it is better if we die remember, you are being an ostrich.

Bliss has a cost of it. You have to pay it. Instead of living life like a fool or committing suicide, it is better if we give the cost and get the bliss. everyone had to pay the cost to get the bliss. No one got it without giving the cost. Socrates had to give it, Jesus had to give it.

Always remember, when you feel like dying, remember that you are being coward.

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Fearless lives the life

Many a times, we realize that we are not living life, but just surviving. Or to be more precise, we just vegetate.  What makes he difference between living and surviving? What distinguishes these two things? Or are they just same? I think it is basically the ability to be fearless which determines if you are living or just surviving.

A person who remains under fear can never live life. His fears design his life, they govern it. He is not having anything of his own in his lie. It is designed and decided by the persons of which this man is afraid of.  Those who in true sense lived their life were always fearless.

An authentic person is always going to be different from the society. So, he will be opposed by society always. Such a person will always be troubled by society. Society will always try threaten such persons. So, you need to be fearless. You should be courageous enough to face them all, you should be bold enough to tackle them all.

To be fearless is the key for living life. Those who are under fear, just survive. Be fearless and live the life.