In Our Next Birth

The Bhagwat Gita explains that every being that takes birth eventually goes through the doors of death to be reborn again in a new body. The body is perishable but the soul isn’t, it changes from one body to another as it passes through the cycle of life and death just as a person change from his old clothes to new clothes. But what the Gita doesn’t explain is where exactly will the rebirth be and in what form will we be reborn again. This last line brings us to our topic today.

Even thought reincarnation is a concept that is specific to Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, imagine if every person in this world believed in this concept. I am not recommending that everyone should but just contemplating what the world would be like if everyone believed.

A person born in his present life with all comforts could be reborn in any war torn or poverty ridden country, terrorism ravaged country or a place oppressed by a dictatorial regime. If we are gifted with a human birth in this life, the next one could be that of a stray animal or scavenger, bird or as some endangered species. What if we are reborn as a chicken in a claustrophobic cage waiting in a butcher’s shop watching each and every fellow bird butchered.

Is it enough to take comfort in the fact that we have air that is still not too bad to breath, water to drink and the temperature is bearable? What if we are reborn into that time in the future where climate change has gone to the extreme and the changes are irreversible and survival itself is the greatest achievement. Wouldn’t we take better care of our planet if we are certain that today’s grandfather could be tomorrow’s grandchild in another vulnerable part of the world?

 Selfish and opportunistic politicians take advantage of international disputes and supply weapons to the war fearing nations rather than trying to maintain peace. Greed dictates every decision. Occupying territories that don’t belong to them, starting trade wars, pushing countries into the throes of poverty in the name of developmental projects or devious money lending schemes and the worst of all terrorism, chemical warfare and biological wars all of them are crafts of the trade. We even have dictatorial regimes that prey on their own population and suffocate their basic rights. What if the oppressors are reborn as the oppressed? Can they handle the misery that they themselves created?

Disregard and disdain for that which is inappropriate, unfair and immoral just because it doesn’t affect us directly in this birth could spell doom for us in our next birth. If every one understood this fully well and worked to achieve peace and harmony, we can create a better world.

Today if we take delight in racism, religious discrimination, religious intolerance, what if in the next birth we are born into that same religion we abhor or the same race that we tried to trample or born into that same hatred that we created?

If everyone believed in reincarnation, it’s not difficult see what kind of a world we are creating for our rebirth. We are sowing the seeds for the harvest we going to reap in our next birth. If knowledge was used not to create more misery but instead to save and improve lives for everyone, we will be creating heaven on earth for our next birth.

Short Story: The Road That Leads to Nowhere

A village shepherd took his sheep to graze in a meadow outside the village. The meadow was close to the forest so most people avoided this place. On one such occasion when the shepherd fell asleep, a ram, an ewe and a lamb wandered into the forest looking for juicy green leaves. All three of them ate until their stomach could hold no more and rested well. When the family wanted to return back to the shepherd, they realized that they were lost in the big bad jungle.

Since then, the family of three sheep were wandering in the forest, searching their way back home. The lamb played with the fawns, the baby monkeys and the rabbits under the watchful eyes of his parents. He jumped with the frogs, chased the butterflies and scared the lizards. When there was trouble lurking around the ewe bleated and he understood the warning call immediately and ran with them.

As time passed by the lamb grew taller and plump. He became very comfortable with his forest life. He left fear far behind and his confidence grew taller than him. Even though the ram and ewe knew that the forest was not the place for a family of sheep and they were trying their best to find their way back home, the lamb knew no other place in the world and felt that the forest was his home. He thought that 0he can never adjust to the village life his parents described. The lamb never realized how lucky they were to survive so long in a forest.

The lamb’s over confidence and immaturity was a cause for concern. One day a few wolf pups approached him. To him they looked cute and friendly. They spoke of wonderful new places he had never seen and of their way of life that was so different from his own. The lamb suddenly realized how much more freedom and unrestrictive, fearless lives they led. This new perilous friendship brought about a lot of changes in the lamb. He abhorred the vigilance of his parents and how they dictated who to play with and whom to keep away from. “Am old enough to know what’s best for me and don’t I have any choice of my own in my life.”, he lamented. The reasons for his parents watch over him and the restrictions they laid out where beyond his understanding. He thought they were over cautious and looked at the jungle from a very negative view point. “Trust me, I know how to keep away from trouble.”, he told them, “You don’t have to come behind me all the time.”. He spent more time with the wolf pups.

The pups invited the lamb to their house in the cave. “You live in the cave? My mother never allows me to go near the cave.” Said the lamb with a mix of excitement and curiosity. The pups laughed at the lamb and said, “what’s there to fear about the cave? My mom says it’s the safest place in the forest and mom serves us the most delicious food in the cave. We love our mom and we love our cave cause it’s the best place in this whole world.”. The lamb told his emotionally charged sob story to the pups and explained how frustrated, heartbroken and fed up he was with his parents.

The lamb was in a dilemma, a faint voice inside appealed to him to go back home and the loud voice yelled what’s the harm in tasting a bit of freedom. The pups are my best friends and they mean no harm to me that’s for sure, he thought. The lamb followed the pups to his cave while the ewe and the ram bleated their heads off asking him to turn back. They are not our kind and it’s not safe to go with them explained the ram in many ways. They will eat you up warned the ewe. These cute creatures and eat me up thought the lamb. The lamb ran behind the pups into the cave and the wolves guarded the entrance. That’s the last the ewe and ram saw or heard about the lamb.

There are times in our life’s journey when we are present with situations that are so confusing. On the one hand it’s the voices of experience and reason telling us to go one way and temptation pulling us the other way. It takes a good amount of faith and determination to do the right thing. God forbid, if anyone falls prey to temptation, it could mean either the end of a dream career or loss of a golden opportunity. But what if it means the end of life and all happiness like in the lamb’s case? Carelessness, temptation, overconfidence and the like are qualities that are similar to the innocent looking wolf-pups and following them leads to nowhere good. The voice of reason might sound bitter, restrictive, unappealing or distasteful to pallet in that moment but it keeps you going towards your goal.

It Is Time To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Often in life, we all reach a point where we are unhappy with the way things are going, yet we are unwilling to try something new. We feel that the known devil is better than an unknown angel. We might have faced many struggles before yet, we find it daunting to work our way out of this predicament. We pacify ourselves that the difficulties don’t outweigh the rewards yet. These are all classic symptoms of getting stuck in a comfort zone.

This comfort zone might be in our relationships, workplace, the projects we choose or life in general. On whichever front, it is just as detrimental to a person to stick to their comfort zone. It forces us to settle for less than the best. Even though we know we can be better and achieve more by taking a risk, it does not matter. Our fear of taking a chance just dulls our senses and distorts our objectivity. Comfort zones are like quicksands that appear harmless until they have pulled us in and we are stuck too deep to fight it.

Our fear to try something new, the inertia to change, the pessimistic attitude towards risk, and so on can hurt us on many levels. They are not just hurting us emotionally and financially but also psychologically. Many people waste their life stuck in the same relationship or job because they are scared to spread their wings.

As with all my posts, this one is also inspired by personal experience. Earlier, in my job, I was so comfortable in my own misery that I stopped seeing it as hell. I made excuses for bad managers, horrible hours of work and less pay. I perceived them to be industry standards. I felt enjoyable work is a myth, and everybody hates their job, so I would just suck it up and carry on.

I have since changed my job and even changed professions. I do not claim that life is better. Yet, I remember why I took the decision to change and that it was a valid concern. So as long as I know that my reason to change, I will not regret jumping out of my comfort zone.

There is no easy way to get out of this. One just needs to find the determination to change. The best way to fight your comfort zone is to keep pushing and challenging yourself. Having a loyal support group to help you change can be a big help.

At the same time, never forget why you have decided to change. As long as the reason is valid, we will always find the strength to keep fighting. Sometimes an honest and rude shock from reality can also wake us up. There are many ways to help you recognise the trap of comfort zones. We just need to be willing to take a step ahead.

Wise Words Are Like Pure Gold

In an earlier post, I had introduced you to the poems of Yogi Vemana. This 17th-century ascetic had written extensively on morality, ethics, human pathos and spread this wisdom through verses known as Vemana Satakam or Vemana Padhyalu.

The current verse is another pearl of wisdom from him:
Alpudepudu palkunadambaramuganu
sajjanundu balku callaganu
kancumroginatlu kanakambu mroguna
visvadabhirama vinura Vema !

In this verse, Vemana talks about how an unintelligent person can fool others with his loud voice and grand plans. His words are extravagant, but they hold little water. However, a wise man speaks softly, without any drama. His words are few, yet the meaning and impact are profound.

He compares the words of an unwise speaker to a brass pot that makes a lot of noise when disturbed. At the same time, pure gold may appear similar to brass, but it makes no noise.

Passing Your Time During Lockdown

The first lockdown due to the pandemic has been hard to adjust to. The second wave of coronavirus has reached a new high, and the second lockdown has been announced in many places. All the travel restrictions are back in place. Most tourist places and recreational centres are closed, and parties are a big no.

I might sound like I’m complaining. But I agree that these measures are needed to curb the spread of the virus. I am just worried about passing my time during this pandemic. 

The last time, I revisited some of my old hobbies, like crocheting and gardening. 

I also learnt how to cook. I made pasta with Alfredo sauce, baked a cake, among a couple of other recipes. I wasn’t very successful, but I got the basics of cooking right.

I guess this time around, I need to try my hand at drawing. That has been an art form that I am not good at. In my previous post, I promised to learn from my sister, who is good at it. Let’s hope I can manage it this time.

Respond, Don’t React

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.
-Wayne Dyer

I read this quote of Wayne Dyer, an American author and motivational speaker. Initially, it seems like a simple statement about life in general. It, in fact, reminded me of another management lesson of how we should always respond and not react.

Both these quotes convey the same lesson, i.e., we should watch how we behave while responding to what is done to us. We should observe if our reaction is a knee jerk response to everything or if we understand the situation and reply accordingly. Many times, it leads to either resolving conflict or aggravating a simple misunderstanding into an all-out war.

Coming back to Wayne Dyer’s quote, when we are in a situation, there are several ways to handle them. Some are knee jerk responses, while some are strategic moves planned to build a brighter future. Some may be conniving schemes that create destruction. The situation we land in may not be our karma or our destiny. However, our response to this unforeseen situation will create our karma. If we handle it gracefully and peacefully, we build good karma. By taking out our anger and seeking revenge, we only create bad karma.

To better explain it, I will narrate a small anecdote. It occurred many years ago, but it highlighted this quote.

One day, my friend and I entered the bank and met an old acquaintance. This lady lived in our neighbourhood previously, and she was notorious for her unhinged rants at passers-by. I saw the same lady verbally abusing another person. This person was thoroughly embarrassed in front of all the bank employees and customers, so she ran out crying as we all watched in shock. Now the lady saw me and started abusing me. She recognised my friend and spoke ill of me to her. But I ignored her as if I had no recollection of her. As a result, I did not react to her abuses, turning my head and going about my business. My friend acknowledged her, and while calmy speaking to her, she led the lady out of the bank. Once the lady went out, everything went back to normal. Everyone in the bank praised my friend for handling the situation. They appreciated me for not fighting back.

The lady created a situation where three different people were embarrassed. We each responded differently. The first person reacted emotionally and ran out. I ignored her and carried on with my work. My friend intervened intelligently by removing her from the bank and stopping any further conflict. The lady’s behaviour was her own karma, but each of us created our own karma while we handled the situation. Thereby, one ended up in tears, and another (my friend) ended up as the hero. Isn’t this thought-provoking?

Time Flies

During the teens, you can’t wait to spread out your wings and have a test flight.

The twenties lets you travel far and wide to explore this wonderous world and meet your match, who makes your heart flutter.

The thirties bring responsibilities; you have a nest and, “the early bird gets the worm” is your mantra.

The forties are for keeping a hawk-eye on things and saving up for the long and cold winter ahead.

In your fifties, you are tired of flying around. You want to rest a bit and crave a second chance to admire what you missed in a hurry.

The Sixties is when you want to return back to the nest.

The seventies makes you crave for your nest to be as filled and be noisy as it was during the thirties.

The eighties are like a bitterly cold winter storm that drags on and on, and you just can’t wait to get over with it.

The nineties are about silently staring at others going through the same thing that you did all along.

When you hit a century, it’s a celebration for everyone around you but you.

We Are All Strong Until We Face The Test

They say that in the face of adversity, our true self comes forward. Some of us stand up and take the lead, while some step back and follow a leader. Some of us crumble and break down, while some of us straighten our back and weather the storm. It is hard to predict with certainty how one will turn out.

Just because we are timid and avoid conflict, it does mean that we will crumble in the face of hardships. A faint-hearted person may not stand up and fight, but they know how to survive. Avoiding conflict doesn’t mean that one cannot face disagreement. It merely means that one does not like it, they do not believe that quarrel resolves problems.

Most people judge and conclude on our strengths based on our everyday behaviour and attitude under normal circumstances. I learnt this the hard way. I believed that I was a very patient person, and counted it was my strength. The truth came out when I faced my test. Here is the whole story by which I came to the realisation.

Before joining my job, I considered myself patient because I could deal with a few difficult people in my friends’ group. While my friends would get flustered, I was able to stay calm while dealing with them patiently. When I joined work, I realised that my patience magically evaporated in front of my manager. That person was my test of patience. I realised that I got very irritated when he picked on my work, every comment he made grated on my nerves. Though I did not lash out at my manager, I took out my irritation on my colleagues.

My sister gave me a bit of wise advice, and I realised that my manager’s influence is limited, only to my work. If I say yes in that minute and keep calm, he will move away. This advice helped me replenish my reserves of patience and believe in myself again. That was until I met my niece. My niece is a bundle of curiosity and energy. She likes to play and has a short attention span. This was another test of my patience, unlike my manager, my niece did not have limited working hours. I can’t say for sure if I passed this test. I just bid my time and waited for my niece to grow up. Now that she is in school, I can recharge my reserves again.

The point is that one can never take our strengths or weaknesses for granted. Until we face a test, we cannot be sure how strong or weak we are. We can not say with a guarantee when our strengths will abandon us or our weaknesses show an alternate technique of survival. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Are We Reading Too Much Between The Lines

Reading between the lines is a phrase that loosely means, to grasp what has been left unsaid, to uncover the truth behind the half-truths. In the past, it was an intelligent trait that only a few wise people possessed. The ability to read between the lines was a highly respected quality, people flocked to such wise ones for advice. By closely observing the body language, past history on the matter, the attitude of people involved and other socio-economic situations at that given point, one would make an educated guess about the intended meaning and unsaid story in a message.

The reason that I have raised this point today is that I have noticed that nowadays, we have stopped listening to what is being said. We see social media platforms abound with crazy conspiracies and theories that are based on seemingly innocuous interviews, discussion and press tours etc. Even mainstream media has stopped reporting facts and started producing conjectures and their analysis of what is said rather than giving us a chance to decide for ourselves.

We are so busy looking for the underlying message that we have stopped listening to what is being said. When we listen to someone speak, we closely observe every minute change in expressions, variation in pitch, tone of voice, line of vision of the speakers etc. Every time we see any fluctuations, we scramble to decode its meaning. We argue and debate to find an explanation. When we find it most of the time, it is the most perverse and unreasonable explanation we can think of.

As a result of all this ‘reading between the lines’, simple conversations are a thing of the past. Slowly reading between the lines got transformed into conspiracy theorizing. This intelligent quality got morphed into the petty and unhinged babbling of a conspiracist. You can visit any of the social media platforms and get 10 different versions and analysis of the same interview. While one site reads the meaning behind the message as a prediction of doomsday, another theorizes it as a ray of hope, and someone else says something totally tangential to both. Everyone tries to connect the dots to create different images while the viewer is left with a headache.

I miss the good old days when news channels only reported news and left the analysis to us. They stated only facts and the storytelling was left for grandmas. I miss the days when only a few wise souls could ‘Read between the lines’.

The Tricky Job of Disciplining Children

Disciplining children is a tough job that not many of us can master. Correcting them can go wrong even if our attitude is critical or laid back. The problem with this task is that you do not know what went wrong until it is late. While one style of disciplining works in the present but leads to a fractured future, another ensures a better future but does not seem to work in the present. I have never needed to correct or discipline children, but I have seen some interesting ways of punishing them.

As I have mentioned already, I do not have much experience managing children on my own. I have tried to babysit my nieces and nephews, but it is not the same. If things get out of hand, we can always leave it to the parents to handle the fallout. I remember an instance when my niece refused to eat lunch. There was no one at home to convince her. I convinced her that she became invisible. And no one could see her or hear her unless she ate food. She was petrified at the thought of no one giving her attention. Luckily for us, she did not think of misusing the situation.

Of all the elders that I have observed around me, each had a different style of managing children. While my aunt would give her kids a free rein and not correct them at all, my mother was quite strict. Another aunt of ours micromanaged her children in such a way, they did not get a chance to misbehave. On the face of things, it always appeared that both my parents were strict and rule-bound. Yet, they both had a very different approach to checking and correcting children. They did not tolerate indiscipline or mischief and punished us in unique ways with psychological games. Nothing sinister about it, but let me give you a few examples.

As a child, I always daydreamed and never concentrated on studying. As a result, my grades were either inconsistent or low. My mother did not have time to sit with me and coach me every day on every topic, so she took a different approach. She sat me down and explained to me that since I was not studying well, I would not get a cushy office job. I would have to either work as a daily wage labourer or a municipal worker or a vegetable vendor. She then ticked out daily wage labourers from the list of potential jobs stating that I was not physically strong enough and also lazy. Thus, it was not a viable option. She moved to a municipal worker and explained that even those people require a certain level of educational qualification. And I had to work just as hard on the job. She told me that seeing my current situation, a vegetable vendor was the best I could manage. She then went on to explain the maximum earning I can expect and all the luxuries that I would have to forego with that job. You can safely guess my reaction to that talk. I was scared for my future, I even observed a few vegetable vendors in the following weeks and imagined myself in their shoes. I was too scared to daydream after that because all my dreams were of me pushing vegetable carts, or trying to hawk cheap goods.

My dad had a different approach. One summer, all of us kids were gathered at our house for a sleepover. And one of us scribbled all over the wall. We did not know who it was. No one would own up. My dad decided that we should play detective and try to recreate the scene of the crime. I walked us through the incident in a dramatic way about how a person stealthily scribbled on the wall without anyone noticing and almost made them appear heroic. He then conducted mock interrogations and acted out how the perpetrator committed the crime. As he expected, one of us slipped up and corrected my dad on the sequence of events and how they actually scribbled. The best part was that we did not even realise that one of us confessed to the mischief. He went on to embarrass the ‘perpetrator’ with all the loopholes in the plot. He even got the elders involved in a fun way. He made the whole incident appear like a game and made us point out all the mistakes made thereby, making my cousin who did the mischief appear like a fool. No one made mischief at our house again.

Both my parents used different tactics to correct us while making it seem like we chose the right way ourself. It is all fun to recollect now, but I wonder how they thought up the idea during those incidents. I can only hope to be half as smart as them while handling children. Do you have any such fun stories to share? You can put them in comments and have fun.

Image courtesy Canva.com

How True Are Our Prayers?

“Atmasuddhi leni acaramadi ela ?
bhandasuddhileni pakamela
chittasuddhileni Sivapujalelara ?
visvadabhirama vinura Vema !”

This poem was written by Yogi Vemana. Yogi Vemana is a famous Telugu ascetic. He wrote a series of poems that spread wisdom, morality, and ethics based on the social fabric of south Indian society in the 17th-century. His poems highlighted the flaws and inconsistencies in society in his times. Sadly, they are relevant in society today as well. The above verse is close to my heart, I hope you see the wisdom in it too.

This verse in Telugu, speaks about wholeheartedly understanding and supporting your beliefs. Vemana points out the futility of your faith when your heart and mind is not invested in it. He tells that there is no sense in following the ceremonies when the heart and soul are not invested in it. It is the same as cooking a fancy meal in a dirty kitchen with soiled utensils and impure ingredients. He questions you about the purpose of all your prayers when your intentions are not genuine.

This poem rings true in most of the current situations that the world is facing. We have laws, constitutional rights, being used and abused to serve evil intents and purposes. We also see god’s gospel is misused to spread the wrong message. People are following the rule of law in word, not in spirit. We see people offer insincere apologies, offer assistance that will only hurt you more than it helps or offer a helping hand while pulling the rug from under you.

Perseverance

I found this quote the other day. I felt that it was telling me to rethink an earlier post I had made regarding quitting. Quitters Are Not Losers.

Reading this quote, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”, by Calvin Coolidge makes me rethink my strategy.