Monday, September 16, 2013

WHO IS A SAINT?


Who is a saint?
Is he the saffron clad mendicant sitting alone in the precincts of a temple telling his beads?
Is he the well versed orator waxing eloquently on the interpretation of a not so obvious part of a religious text?
Is he the chief of a monastic order with a huge following in the country and abroad and with whom appointments are hard to come by in the next six months?
Is he that person in designer robes who speaks with faultless logic and urges his disciples to follow the contradictory theorems of immersing themselves in pleasure while remaining detached?
Is he the white robed geriatric who holds court speaking to the devotees more in songs and dances than explaining how to overcome their deep seated anxieties?
Is he the ochre draped personality who explains the nuances of every mantra but is distracted by his own senses?
Is he the lonely ascetic performing penance and body twisting yoga mudras thus enabling himself to control his heartbeats and breathing?
Is he a part of the gang of sadhus ringing door bells and demanding alms to go to Benares while refusing the food which you offer him cordially?
Or is he that nondescript person whom you meet in the shopping mall who strains to get at the jam bottle which has slipped from your cart and is rolling away from you far beneath a shelf?
Is he that young boy who runs after you through a busy street calling out, “Madam , aap  ne apna purse gira diya hai”?( “Madam, you have dropped your purse”)
Is she the young woman running to avoid being late to the office yet holding the hand of a blind woman and guiding her across a densely packed horn honking office time traffic lane?
Is she the housewife who manages to control her temper and desists from screaming at the maid whose loose grip on the Baccarat crystal fruit bowl caused it to smash into countless shards of meaningless glass?
Is he the miserably feverish and chillingly wet soldier who carries an 80 year old great grandmother across wildly swirling flood waters raging with floating debris at frightening speed, eager to smash anyone who dares step in its wake of destruction?
Is he the co passenger in the night train offering his whole dinner tiffin to a father and his little daughter, who unaccustomed to travelling, forgot to pack  for themselves?
Who is a saint?
 The first group of preachers, the holy men, the gurus, or the more easily available second group, that of common people whom you meet in droves everyday on the street?
There lurks in each of us moments of an inner urge, to reach out and assist another human in whichever way we can. These moments are saintly.
A saint would be a person devoid of earthly impurities of greed, the will to possess, anger, expectations, the violence of thought, word or deed, covetousness and a slave to the pleasure of his senses.
He exudes an inner calm in the face of danger to his life or limbs, forgiving the trespasses of others and exhibits a will to be of help to others who can be of no help to him. When he discerns that the needy requires relief beyond his competence, he prays for his reprieve from the One Source Who has been running the show since the beginning of time.
He gives of himself and his time without distinguishing between the status of the person or his rank in life. He doesn’t expect anyone to pay back his acts of kindness and charity but prefers to forget them once the deed is done.
He does not flaunt either his knowledge or his philanthropic work but deems himself fortunate that he could, in some way, alleviate the misery of his fellow humans.
He remains unaffected by the venom spewed by his detractors, nor is swayed by words of praise of his followers. He knows this world to be a passage at best, and any act here which is committed bearing seeds of expectations will sprout with poisoned flowers of external beauty but inner rancidity.
He knows that his station in life has come from his own deeds and the appreciation of the present moment alone can dissolve the cloak of unhappiness which wraps everyone born here. He recognizes that joys do not lie in future promises, nor in past glories but in the present well spent.
He is privy to the knowledge that whatever has been created here shall age, wither away and die and that nothing is of colossal importance in the personal timeline or that of a nation.
The saint neither loathes nor is in love with his position in life however elevated or stressful his situation may seem to an onlooker. He revels in the knowledge that whatever has started has to end and that every life is being played out on the wheel of time, every life ever transitory, being a sum of combination of its own actions and inactions.
Can we too become a saint? Reach that pinnacle of human excellence of thought and action?
While no one can claim not to have indulged in violence in thought, word or deed, or not been swept away by the torrential downpour of sensory delights, we can in our own way exert our way towards being a better someone. If only we stop judging the lives of others and turn the spotlight on our own web of thoughts and deeds, and then gradually start fixing our glitches, we would have made progress.

The world will never be perfect for us. But if we mould our lives correctly, we would leave it a better place on our exit than we found it when we cried our way out of mom’s womb.
(Disclaimer: The picture at the  beginning of the text in no way depicts any characteristic of any person, dead or alive, delineated in the article. It is put up just to beautify the blog article)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Voice




From your very childhood and then well into higher classes you had only one Aim. Every thought of yours could relate to that ultimate want of yours. Your parents and teachers were happy to see your absolute focus and unending enthusiasm for your chosen avenue. The craving of attaining your Aim slithered inside you like a snake and completely ensnared your every thought. It became a burning desire.
Your expectations took you through a virtual whirlwind tour of success leaving you to gasp for breath thinking of the moment when your plans will be crowned with success.
Matters were moving smoothly and you were cruising along perfecting your  Plan when one day suddenly you realised that the scenes were not moving according to your script. You tried harder but things started going awry. From one unexpected twist to another, the drama which started unfolding had nothing in common with your years of yearning and preparation. You realised, to your chagrin,  the matters were now sliding beyond your control. You shifted gears, giving greater thrust to your daily input, but the vehicle of life was now slipping inexorably beyond your control, taking in its wake your cherished dreams, your hopes, your place in the Sun.
You were now in a state of panic. The much cherished Aim now distorted beyond recognition lay in its dying throes. You became desperate to take anything which came your way. The job you finally landed up with was too alien to your thoughts. You were unsure of your next step, fumbling to find your bearings. Everything now looked foreign and you moved in a stupor not able to relate to this sudden change in your life. Numb and paralysed with uncertainty, the mind went into a tizzy not able to comprehend the complications life had suddenly thrown your way.
Somehow you were able to stand up from the rubble of the horrid catastrophe thinking, “This can’t be happening to me. I am a lucky guy. I never planned anything like this in my scheme of things.” Some remote corner of the mind whispers, “It has happened. Now what?” To which you laugh and shaking your head say, “It is a passing phase. It will soon be over.”
Two months pass by. And nothing happens. There is still no remission. Everything hurts. Every comforting word from everyone seems like a knife plunging into the guts.
One morning you get up and throw the pillow at the window in rage. “How the hell did this happen to me? I haven’t hurt anyone, or made anyone miserable. Why should I be singled out for this treatment?” There is no answer. There is that exploding mass of heat in the chest waiting to be exhaled. But it is not coming out. The agony increases many fold. You shout at the cleaning maid. Mom too gets an earful. The siblings are confused and scared of you. But the pain is unrelenting. “So much of effort and it all failed. Why? How?” The whole day goes out in analysis of the perfect plan you had chalked out for yourself. There is no part where the effort was less than perfect. But the plan failed to click.
It has been two years now. You have a different job now. You meet different people now. You are trying to pull back from the dregs. But every now and then the monster of the past resurfaces disturbing the shroud of tranquillity you have tried to mask yourself with. In some moments, it seems you have left the past behind. You even pass some days totally absorbed in your new avenue. Then suddenly the beast of the past hits back powerfully. You cringe at the wily ways it has found to claw back into the recesses of your memories. It mocks your ceaselessly. It scoffs at every step you take to make yourself better and stronger. It preys on your confidence. And it takes its heaviest toll on the weekends when you are alone. You look to Mondays to escape from this hideous brute. You tell everyone that work was the recommended device to control every vice. But beneath your serene demeanour lurks the fear of looking into the eyes of your past and all that had gone wrong which made you a dwarf in your own esteem.
Years roll by and you are firmly entrenched in your new profession. Everyone looks up to you. Everyone thinks you have it made. Everyone, except yourself. You are now resigned to fate. You enjoy the perks which others would kill to achieve. But you are joyless. Stifled and  trapped in the confines of your own making, you fail to see how far you have come since the day when your plans started going sour. The credit of your balance sheet is brimming to the full. The debit shows only one entry. Your first dream.
You are in deep slumber after a particularly busy day. Its hot and humid outside. The electricity department seem to enjoy torturing the city with an unannounced power shut down. But you are unaffected. Sleeping in the cool confines of your air conditioned house powered by generators, the agonies of a suffocating, perspiring city does not bother you.  You do not share the discomfort of the lesser privileged. The retinue of your servants have left having locked the house and seen to the comforts of their master.
Suddenly a blinding flash of white light seems to fill your room. You get up with a start. The light is toned down but still intense. You look askance everywhere.
A deep resonating voice says, “Well?”
You are a brave man. You don’t get easily unnerved . The mind is working overtime. Where is this voice coming from? Has the television suddenly switched on. There is something ethereal about the voice.  But you can’t see anything. It seems the whole room is a huge void. And you are sitting in the midst of it. Strangely you are not feeling afraid. The palms are not wet with perspiration.
You: “Who is this? I can’t see you?”
The Voice : “ I know that. You haven’t been able to see for a long time now.”
You: “Stop fooling around and come in front of me where I can see you.”
The Voice : I am in front of you. I don’t fool people. If you cannot see me, despite being with me, is it My fault?”
You : “What do you want from me?”
The Voice : “ What can you give Me?”
You : “Turn off that light, will you? I can’t talk to a voice I can’t see.”
The Voice : “Is it?  Did you not pander to a non-existent voice all  these years and ignore the reality you were faced with?” The Voice wasn’t irritated or angry. Just probing.
You : “What do you know about reality? All my best laid plans were ground to dust despite my devotion and love for them. The life I am living seems to be a footnote compared to the grandeur of my plan.
The Voice : Your plan…I see. No fault of yours making plans and trying to get there. But did you take into account the lives of others which would be altered had your plan worked?
You : It was my plan, my life, my calculation. I had worked it out to perfection. I wanted to reach there. Why should I be bothered to include anyone else in my plan of things?
The Voice : Let me rephrase my question. Ever since you were born, someone fed you, someone clothed you, someone took care of you till you were able to do these things for yourself. Surely you hadn’t planned all this since the moment you were born?
You : How can anyone expect an infant to do all this? What sort of daft question is this?
The Voice : Which means you were someone else’s plan?
You : Well, sort of. My parents must have planned it.
Voice : Thus their plan affected your life. Is it not?
You : Hmmm…I see where you are going.
The Voice : Thank you. But my query first. Why didn’t you factor in how your plan would affect the lives of others. Of those people you knew and those you didn’t.
You : Even if I knew how my plan would affect others, it was impossible for me to know them beforehand. Suffice to say, I would have been very happy had my plan gone through.
Voice : Happy? What do you know about happiness? I see that you are surrounded with comfort of every kind, but still you are not happy. You are oh so successful in everyone’s eyes, but you do not care about it. You only rue what you didn’t get. You never feel grateful for the tonnes of goodies you did get. And you have the audacity to claim that your plan, which was incidentally full of glaring errors, would have made you happy? Get up and smell the coffee. Look outside your ivory tower, and see how difficult it is for so many of your compatriots to eke out a living. And look at your luxuries. You seem to have made a habit out of being rather churlish.” The Voice did not admonish,  just seemed to point out your nature of late.
You : Hmmm..maybe you are right. What do you propose I do?
The Voice : I won’t propose anything. It is your life. You will do exactly as it pleases you. All I have to say is that there is a world out there. Get out of your cocooned existence and feel the pain and want of the less fortunate. Alright tell Me something you have, which you value the most.
You reply unflinchingly: My dignity.
The Voice : Has that ever been compromised? Barring some people who are at war with their own self, has anyone defiled your dignity in public?
You : No. That never happened.
The Voice : Have you ever seen a day when you had to scrounge for food or shelter?
You : No.
The Voice : You prefer not to eat much because you want to stay fit and slim. Nothing wrong in that. But much of the population here have to fight daily which you forego in a bid to hold your waistline.
You : What are you driving at?
Voice : The very obvious fact. That you have got it. Every bit that is required to exist here. You do not have any business to be sad or grumble.
You : Now that you put it this way, it is tough to say I am not lucky. But there still remains that unfinished business.
Voice : How can you be so na├»ve?  That dream of yours is over. Today is your present. And you have every reason to rejoice. What you had dreamt belonged to someone else. What you have today belongs to you. You will not fit in that dream and no one else will fit in your slot. Don’t you realise that you are so unique that you alone can do the job entrusted to you? You might say that this post will be filled by someone else when you are no longer here or that the industry was here before you were born. That’s right. But your being here has its effects to such far reaching places of which you have no inkling. Every particle in this universe is performing some act at a given moment and that is critical to the acts done by others. Take out one of the seemingly disconnected parts and the whole Creation will fall apart. 
You : Like I am a small cog in a huge machine, but the machine can’t move without my being there?
Voice : You got it. And now that you got it, One hopes that you will accept the reality of your being and move onward. Not cling to your past.
You : That pretty well solves some real big question. But hey listen why is this light fading..wait…I still have one more question.
Voice : Another time…I am always there. You have to just look for me.

A sharp stab of music jolts you. The first bars of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Your hand instinctively reaches out to fumble for the cell phone’s snooze button. You turn on your side and open your eyes. The dream was too vivid not to be real. But there was a faint trace of a sublime fragrance in the air.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

OUR DREAMS AND OUR PRESENT

All of us have the right to dream and aspire of a better future, but how many of us gain entry into that paradise of perfection, the realization of our dreams? The huge canvas of successes and glories that we paint for our future taunt us, rile us and depress us to various degrees when we are not able to achieve them.
A few of us  throw both prudence and character to the winds in an attempt to achieve their projected prize and are later burdened with the guilt of their means.
Most of us give way to the immediate pressures of our daily living and take eyes off the aim, only to be reminded later in solitude about the failure to achieve it.
Only the wise among us realize that while the mind can conjure fanciful notions of our capabilities coupled with unbound desires, the most we can do is to make concerted assaults of hard work to win the object of our dreams. The end result never was and never will be in our domain. But in our attempt, we might change paths and change aims. We are shown that while our objective was in no way inferior, we might not be best suited for that job, position or environment. The Cosmic system knows us inside out, our every thought, our every move. The Cosmic system is also both unyielding as well as benevolent while deciding our line of work and hence our aims and achievements.
Ultimately, all of us are given the job to which we are most suited. We might, no doubt, view our position from different angle, detesting maybe, the life which we have been given, but if we sit quietly and observe objectively, ourselves and our life, without recourse to a sympathetic notion of circumstantial conspiracies of time and fate, which might have befallen us, we will realize that happiness lies in wholehearted pursuit of our present vocation. The present moment is the most significant. In it lies our smiles and sorrows. To keep aspiring and waiting for a Utopian situation which might never arise (if the Cosmic system decides to keep us away from it) is to take away the happiness of today and invite the agonies of an unending tomorrow of uncertainty.