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Being Grateful to Silence

Can I paint if my canvas is shaky? Or can I dance if the ground is not rooted in the stillness? As I closely observe these trees, their bottoms rooted in the darkness of the night, yet their peaks touching the light of the moon and the stars, I realise that this universal silence is the playground on which creativity of existence unfolds relentlessly.

As clouds pass through the sky, all our actions and activities pass through this silence. As clouds are unable to taint the sky, our activities, howsoever loud and violent they might be, can not even touch this eternal silence; disfiguring it is far from reality.

Who is an artist? May be the one, who tries to paint this silence on a piece of paper; or the one who sings so that people hear the silence he or she is hinting at; or probably the dancer, who through his or her postures, makes us aware of the infinite space in which we are born, live and die.

When the canvas or the space in which we survive is at even a slight unrest, creativity is impossible. When artists are madly running behind creativity, is it not wise to halt for a moment and be grateful to this silence- the ultimate benefactor of creativity?

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Address by Kiran Khalap at The Kabir Way Launch

At the launch of The Kabir Way, Kiran Khalap, author and co-founder of chlorophyll brand and communication consultancy had a dialogue with audience about work-life separation. Here is the full video of his talk:

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Can we stop the wars from happening?

Wars seem to be an integral part of life. Wars are happening on the earth for ages; between castes, societies, countries, animals and individuals. With the recent happenings (India and Pakistan), we are again on the brink of war. Over the period, the way we fight wars has evolved; it has become more sophisticated and subtler and even more cruel and gross at some places; but wars do happen.

Should we think about stopping wars or should we embrace them as an inevitable reality in our lives? More importantly, if we think we should stop wars, what’s the way to achieve that?

To begin with, I remember a beautiful sentence by Osho, where he says, ‘when the peace inside is disturbed, the wars happen outside’.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-4-34-53-pmWars are the manifestation of the turbulence inside. All possibilities of war are eliminated if minds are peaceful. When we typically talk about stopping war, we are essentially talking about stronger armies, powerful ammo and warfare technology. As one can see, when we hear the word ‘war’, our first reaction is protecting ourselves and defeating our enemy and never about preventing it from happening. The only way to stop wars from happening is creating peace within oneself. A person full of anger, frustration, hopes and passion is not at peace and unless he is not at peace, war is inevitable.

Everyday conflicts are also sort of wars. small frustrations and small conflicts add up and evolve into big wars. The first step to stop big wars is living life in such a way that it prevents the accumulation of frustration, anger inside oneself. Drops of violence come together to form the ocean. Meditation is the way to stop the formation of the drops of violence within oneself!

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Can you share the sensitivity?

We read so many scriptures and listen to so many wise people around us. Still, we do not change. So many peace rallies and silent marches are conducted but they do nothing to stop the crimes. On the social level, we all want to stop corruption but still, we are far from controlling it. Hatred is always rising in spite of many efforts by many great philosophers, saints and activists.

What is the problem? It simply means all these things are least effective if at all. The problem is, in spite of so many initiatives, we are not able to change the minds. The messages are being delivered; but they are not doing the work that they are supposed to do: to touch the heart and make it sensitive.

Any message that you send out, has two parts: one is the content of the message and second one is the sensitivity. If the message fails to create the sensitivity, it is futile. It’s a wasted opportunity. Can we really create communication which makes a person sensitive to its cause? I feel, to some extent, it is possible but we cannot solely rely on the communication to make people sensitive.

sensitivity

Sensitivity cannot be shared; it is born within a person. A mother carries the baby within her womb for nine months and bears the pain. A sensitive person also carries in his womb his sensitivity. The important point to note is, this sensitivity never leads to any pain. Rather, it frees the mind out of its conditioning and sets it into the action. Sensitivity leads to enlightenment.

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The ‘Choiceless’ Awareness

Today, terms like awareness, Nirvana, Meditation and Yoga are being used like other casual activities- trekking, mountaineering, cycling etc. Yoga is probably being looked upon as a form of exercise good for both body and mind and meditation as a way to take better decisions in the complex situation without letting your blood pressure go high.

Many are happy to see the popularity gained by Indian practices in western culture or in modern lifestyle. Just a note of caution- we are taking away the true form and the true spirit from these practices.

Meditation done with a purpose is not meditation; it is simply an exercise of concentration. Similarly, Yoga is not a tool to make yourself fit and productive; these are merely the by-products. The beauty of meditation is, you don’t have to do it with a purpose. When all purposes die, meditativeness pops up.

‘Truth is a pathless land’ were the words used by J. Krishnamurti when he delivered a speech and dissolved the Order of Stars. If we meditate with a path in our head- path to better mental health, mindfulness, calmness etc. we have reduced it to a utility. It might take you to the end goal that you have imagined but not to the ultimate realization…

Awareness is choice-less, a grace on a pathless land, while wandering without any purpose.

FullSizeRender (Medium)

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Joy, Satisfaction and Frustration: Balancing Life On The Three Pillars

Through out the day, we are doing something or the other. The other day, while observing how we spend our time, I realized that the most of the time that we spend, can be divided into two gross buckets. First bucket is the time that we spend doing things that give us direct joy or the things that we enjoy doing. The second bucket is the time that we spend doing things that give us something in return.

For instance, someone loves to paint and he enjoys the very act of painting. Or someone loves to teach. In this case, the sheer joy which comes out of doing the activity surpasses other benefits that one gets out of doing it. In case of such activity, we do it not out of thought, but we do it out of joy. On the other hand, the second type of activities is the typical ‘work’ that we do. We do it because we get paid for doing it or because it will help us achieve something in future or it is good for our reputation.

What should our typical day be composed of? How much time should we spend doing activities under both of these buckets? I will be honest at the beginning- very very few people are so passionate about something that they will leave aside all other things in the pursuit. I assume you are the one who wants to lead a balanced life in a satisfactory way, balancing all the fronts (joy, money, satisfaction etc.)

It will be ridiculous to say one should full time do what he loves; unless you are very passionate about what you love and not at all bothered about money, other needs and other requirements.

It will be even more ridiculous if you spend all of your time doing things that fall in the second bucket- you do not enjoy (or might even hate!) doing them but still do them for one or the other reason.

To find out the answer to this question, one has to closely analyze these two types of activities and the drawing below might help:

joy of actionAs it can be seen, when we do an activity simply because we love it, the outcome is pure joy. On the other hand, when we do something to get something, the output depends on majorly two things- what is the level of satisfaction that we get out of doing it and what is frustration that we get out of doing it.

For instance, let us assume that A gets paid 80,000 rupees every month for working as a marketing manager. These 80,000 rupees help him in several ways- paying for the loan, monthly expenses, the school fees, buying new gadgets, travelling, medical care etc. Hence, this amount brings some amount of satisfaction. At the same time, his work forces him to travel a lot. He hates most of the part of the work that he does, he is not able to spend his time doing things he loves to do, his boss constantly tortures him etc. All of this builds a frustration in him. So, the net satisfaction will be a sum total of all the frustration and satisfaction. If the satisfaction earned is  higher than the frustration, A will continue. If the frustration is higher than the satisfaction, A might leave or he might still do it, cribbing all the time.

Considering this, one can certainly do this to improve his satisfaction

  1. Spend at least some time doing things that you just enjoy doing. If possible, do not link this activity with your financial status (simply means, if you love painting as a hobby, do it just because you love doing it and do not link it with any financial or other gains. Do not be ambitious – being a famous painter, being a well paid painter etc. do it simply because you love doing it.)
  2. It is almost impossible doing what we love all the day and linking it with money. So whatever work you do, try that the satisfaction that you get out of doing it is at least 2 times more than the frustration that it brings. Choose what kind of frustration you can handle and what type you cant. (someone might be happy dealing with a tough boss but can’t live without more money and perks whereas someone might be happy with little money but needs peaceful work atmosphere.)

 

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Center of Decentralization

We speak about decentralization and empowering multiple stake holders to enhance impact of any kind of work that we plan to do. We may be working in an office or in a village on a project. We keep saying that we need people to own processes, outcomes and impact. We also often find it difficult to let go of the control as we are not sure if everyone else will work with same efficiency, same intentions, same approach as we have. We are also often unsure of the pace at which the project will move forward and are skeptical if decentralization will help us be time bound and professional. Our political system also speaks highly about decentralization but fails to accept it truly because of the same reasons. We all know what really keeps us away from decentralization but we have hardly tried to understand what makes decentralization the key to sustainability.

Almost no roads...
Tough terrain does not stop Rajwadi from dreaming.

Being at Rajwadi has helped me identify the center of decentralization. Rajwadi, a small village in Ratnagiri district of the Maharashtra state functions on decentralization. You find that there is no one person in-charge of any work in the village. Many people take lead and anchor various projects but the village has many faces. Every decision is taken mutually after discussion. Every project is implemented after consensus and debate. You will be able to find many leaders and many followers. You will be able to find many thinking souls with opinions which are debated and discarded but always valued.
Examples like Rajwadi are not miracles which happen in split seconds; there is always a long list of mindful actions behind such system. What makes Rajwadi projects perfectly decentralized? How has Rajwadi been able to sustain such high decentralization in spite of all the challenges that they face? They also (like any other society) have people who are disinterested, who have lost hopes, who are complacent, who are complaining etc. What is special about Rajwadi and the people here?
Rajwadi actually functions on trust. No person, representative or leader has work timings, working days but rather has certain roles and responsibilities. Every month the village has a monthly meeting to discuss monthly activities and grievances. Every project group meets once a week to discuss their issues and solutions. No decision is taken by an individual but the community or the group owns the responsibility. Rajwadi is not perfect, we must remember. Nothing is perfect. But it is definite that this imperfection drives us (humans) towards excellence. They have a lot of challenges and tremendous group dynamics but yet they have not lost hope in people; in ‘their’ people. They trust each other and wish the best to each other. They all help each other when they struggle.

Rajwadi Vegetable selling Project
Rajwadi Community Vegetable Farming Project  supplies fresh and organic vegetables to the nearby town of Ratnagiri.

Rajwadi culture is different from what we find in traditional companies, factories, offices. Rjwadi culture is actually closer to what professionals’ term as ‘start-up’ culture. It is open, based on trust, morally accountable; with no hierarchy and limited monitoring. These uneducated rural individuals are more progressive than scholars in our cities. We still have the real hope in our villages! We need to be a lot more humble to learn from these humans who work in farms and sleep under trees. These people have taught me the core of decentralization; which no civics text book or political science professor could help me learn.
Decentralization means trusting and being able to trust is difficult but not impossible.

Small dam built by Rajwadi villagers.
Small dam built by Rajwadi villagers.

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Musical Musings on Sant Tikaram @ Pagdandi Book, Chai, Cafe, Baner

Tukaram at Pagdandi

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My speech at CoEP: Three Pieces of Advise for the Youth

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A couple of days ago, I was invited to the college from where I passed out,  to be a jury for a debate competition. The competition went on for the entire day and finally got over. It was quite interesting to listen to the various view points.  The topics of debate ranged from Grindr,  a dating app for homosexuals to weighted votes. The day fruitful, in short.

At the end, there was the prize distribution ceremony where I was requested to share  some words of advise for the students. As many students are a constant stream of readers of this blog, I thought of sharing what I spoke there through this short post.

The first thing that I clarified was the fact that information is now easily available and hence, it is no more valued as much as it used to be. This  elevates the responsibility that youth or everyone has. You have to  move to the next level, where instead of just giving information, you process it or add your own wisdom to share some insights.

I also asked them to be more sensitive. Sensitivity is probably, the most sought after skill these days. Don’t be sensitive because a sensitive person is sought after. Sensitivity is what defines a human being. In short words, the advise was, love more, care more and feel more.

The third piece of advise asked them to experience the world without any prejudices or restrictions. Try to get as many experiences possible as they make us rich.

I think these three things are probably the most required ones by the society from the youth.

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Kabir Ke Dohe: धीरे-धीरे रे मना, धीरे सब कुछ होय with meaning and commentary

धीरे-धीरे रे मना, धीरे सब कुछ होय

 माली सींचे सौ घड़ा, ॠतु आए फल होय|

This Doha of Kabir suits well the today’s digital age and simply tells how Kabir’s wisdom remains valid even after a few centuries. The internet boom has made things so different than what they were; if you wanted to publish your writings a few decades before, you were at mercy of publishers, news editors, magazine editors and a long list of many others. Today, getting your work in front of people is so easy. You can have a blog, write for online magazines or can even have your own Kindle book.

Internet has made many things easy but, some things have become much more difficult than before. This internet boom has resulted in a lot of noise everywhere and hence, though getting published has become easier, getting attention from audience is much more difficult. This couplet of Kabir has the hint to deal with this tough situation. In fact, this centuries old couplet of Kabir tells us to do exactly the same thing which which Seth Godin is telling us to do now. Great minds think alike!

Kabir says,

धीरे-धीरे रे मना, धीरे सब कुछ होय |

Oh mind, be patient. Results take some time to show up.

माली सींचे सौ घड़ा, ॠतु आए फल होय||

Even if the gardener feeds a plant hundred buckets of water, the fruits will come only when the right season arrives.

In simple words, this doha from Kabir asks us to be patient. It tells us that whatever good work you do, it will take some time to get you the results you expect. I think is the best advice that can be given to anyone in the digital age.

Take the example of this blog, which was started almost 8 years ago. When it was started, I and a few handful of my friends were only readers. No one else even knew that this blog existed. It was quite easy and obvious for me to get fed up and stop writing. I could have spent my time on something else. And look at the picture today. This blog gets thousands of visitors from many countries. Along with me, 5-10 of my friends had started their blogs; not even one of them blogs today! The universal truth which Kabir wants to tell us is, people tend to take some time before they notice the good work that you do. Unfortunately, in the digital era, as publishing or anything for that matter is become so easy, there is a lot of noise around and hence, it takes even longer time for people to take notice of the work that you do.

This couplet of Kabir also falls in line with the theory of Dip that Seth Godin has shared with us through his book, The Dip. Consider the world of start-ups for example. If you track them over a period of time, you will come to know that 90% of them just disappear five years down the line. It means, most of the people doing something drop their efforts as they do not see the meaningful results. Who are these 10% people? They are the people who really love what they are doing and hence, they do not leave the good work at the Dip.

This Doha of Kabir is for all of us. If you are doing what you love to do, Kabir says, it will take some time before people notice you and you start getting results. You just keep on doing your work. Eventually, the others will fall off and you will lead.


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