­सबसे भले वे मूढ़ जिन्हें न व्यापे जगत गति..

George Michael passed away last week. It’s said he had been fighting depression for a long time. But so was Leonard Cohen and Robbie Williams and so many others before them.Have you ever wondered why most artists, writers, painters, philosopher’s even scientists suffer from mental illness ? 

Is intelligence then a curse or a gift?  A rare gift that challenges one to go find the true nature of reality, to dive deep down in the waters of human excellence and discover the treasure that lies in the darkness of the ocean floor. 

And are the ones who receive this gift the chosen ones ? Are they the ones who carry the burden of moving the human thought, the human civilization forward but just like the wick of the lamp burn in the process of giving light to others. 

But what if there is no truth to be known? What if the nature is hiding no great secrets from us ? What if Charvak and the existentialists are right. Eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy the party till it lasts.

The problem is not that intelligent people or let me say supremely intelligent people don’t want to be happy. The problem is that beyond a point they can’t enjoy the “normal”stuff. They can’t find any fun in the same activities as others around them. They have no option but to look else where. And for sometime they do find happiness reveling within themselves – thinking, writing, painting, singing until they reach a dead end. What to do now their mind asks them?And there are no answers.

हैरान हूँ इस बात पे, तुम कौन हो , क्या हो?

हाथ आओ तो बुत, हाथ ना आओ तो खुदा हो

अक़्ल में जो घिर गया, ला-इंतिहा क्यूँ कर हुआ?

जो समझ में आ गया फिर वो खुदा क्यूँ कर हुआ?

फलसफ़ी को बहस क अंदर खुदा मिलता नही,

डोर को सुलझा रहा है और सिरा मिलता नही

हो भी नहीं और हर जा हो,

तुम एक गोरखधंधा हो

[बुत = idol; अक़्ल = mind/Thought; ला-इंतिहा = boundless; फलसफ़ी = philosopher; बहस=debate]

The mind has a limited capacity and it kind of exhausts itself. There is still so much to know but the barrier is just too high. The intellect pushes itself but it can’t cross the threshold. It doesn’t give up and pushes some more. This is the point where sadness seeps in – a deep sense of melancholy, of loss, of being chained to the limits of existence. Like a bad acid trip the mind starts playing tricks. It does not want to accept defeat, to come down from a high pedestal and accept that it is ordinary like everyone else. It has come too far and there is no way to go back…there is no way at all.

Trust me.

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George Orwell’s rules for a good cup of Tea..

​George Orwell’s rules for drinking Tea :

“Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:
First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.
Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britannia ware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.
Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.
Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.
Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.
Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.
Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.
Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.
Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.
Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.
These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tea leaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.”

Zen Retreat by Om Swami..

Once Swami Vivekanand ( then Narendra) was discussing spirituality with Ramkrishna Paramhansa at his house. As always Paramhansa was trying to explain the nature of reality to his favourite student but Naren was not convinced.

Ramakrishna got a bit flustered and asked Naren to pick up a weather magazine kept next to where he was sitting. He asked him to go through the content and tell him what was the main theme. Naren told him that the magazine talked about weather conditions especially about rain – how it happens, how much is it going to rain and why, which parts of the country will get more rain and so on. Ramakrishna asked him to take the magazine in his hands and try to squeeze it with his full might. Narendra was perplexed but carried out the instructions. Ramakrishna told him he is not trying hard enough and his student put all his strength to the task. His Guru was now smiling. He told Narendra that wasn’t he surprised that no water came out of the magazine. Narendra got the point and Ramakrishna continued to explain “Just like we cant get rain or water out of a magazine we cannot realise what is the truth, what is reality just by talking about it” He added” When an ant is carrying a small grain of sugar it does not know whether it’s sweet or sour. It just feels the burden of the weight and keeps going in the direction where other ants are going.”

For the past twenty years I have accumulated a lot of knowledge on the nature of reality, the various practices associated with spirituality  and have been doing my own meagre Sadhana, if it can be called that ! I know that the plethora of frauds masquerading as Swami’s are no good and so are the likes of Deepak Chopra and Robin Sharma who soft peddle ancient Indian knowledge to gullible western audience. My quest for a rendezvous with truth led me to Om Swami’s blog. I found his writing clear, concise, fluid with glimpses of deep insights and understanding. I also looked up some and later most of his videos on youtube. Since I had subscribed to the blog an email regarding a Zen Retreat which would be personally presided by the Swami came to my email. I dilly dallied for a few days but when I saw the slots filling up by the hour I decided to pay the fee and register. This was in July this year and the dates for the retreat were given as December 18-22. Over the last few months I pretty much devoured everything that Om Swami has written including his books If truth be told, Wellness Sense, Kundalini and A fistful of love. I left out one book As we know him by his disciples as they tend to glorify and exaggerate and another one When all is not well which is about Depression.

I reached the venue Golden Palms Resort and Spa at the outskirts of Bangalore on the 18th afternoon and after a long check in process for some 250 odd seekers I was finally ready to get the first glimpse of the man who had claimed to see God. As we remained seated for the moment to arrive I felt a bit anxious even sceptical about being where I was. The gathering dressed in white was a mixed bag – there were family’s which probably wanted to combine vacation with some soul searching, old men and women either with each other or on their own, professional devotees who are ready to place their faith with little self enquiry or self doubt and the usual westerners without whom no spiritual gathering looks complete. Only few of us were by themselves. I thought if nothing else I was at least meeting the first condition for a true seeker – of being alone on my journey;-) As I listened to the beautiful Buddhist chant Om Mani Padme Hum I decided to stop judging and focused my undivided attention to what I was there for. I took a deep breadth, chanted Om gently and resolved to make the best of my time for the next 4 days.

At exactly 4:45 PM Om Swami appeared in hall from the door near the lifts and walked briskly towards the stage which was at the other end. The devotees bowed down with respect in their eyes and humility in their posture. I did the same. As Swami sat down I noticed that the room was filled with a very strange but pleasant fragrance. I later guessed that it could be coming from the air freshner in  AC units or may be not.But there is no doubt that the fragrance was quite heavenly so full marks to the  brand which made it. Swamiji very humbly asked everyone to get seated and after offering his obeisance to the divine and his mother he started the discourse. He was giving an introduction to the Zen practice. I must mention something extraordinary which happened at least to me.To give us a glimpse of what he meant by ‘slowing down’ he asked everyone to look at him and hear his words for the next 30 seconds with utmost concentration. As I did that I felt as if the entire hall with everyone in it was in slow motion. I tried shaking off  the feeling but it was not possible. I had once tried some weed in college and the experience was very similar to that. As Swami spoke more about the topic I was convinced that even if I don’t end up having a vision of God I would certainly learn a lot of new things.Also, I had this consolation now that if someone had in fact seen God he would probably look like Om Swami.

I am now going to give you an account of some of the  leaning and the various practices that were taught by Swami ji as part of the retreat.

What is Zen 

It is the Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasising the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of scriptures.

The word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chan which has its origin in the Sanskrit word Dhyana (ध्यान ), which can be approximately translated as absorption or a meditative state.

Satori is at the heart of Zen practice.It’s a term for awakening or the experience of kenshō, – seeing into one’s true nature.

The Heart Sutra

The heart sutra is perhaps the only sermon that the Buddha gave on the subject of Zen. He pronounces that the world as we see it is empty(different from Nihilism – life is meaningless). The insight in Heart Sutra refers to apprehension of the fundamental emptiness (Shunyata) of all phenomena, known through and as the five aggregates of human existence (Skandhas): form (Rupa), feeling (Vedana), volition (Sankahra), perceptions (Samjan), and consciousness (Vijana).

प्रज्ञापारमिताहृदयसुत्रम् ।।

ॐ नमो भगवत्या आर्यप्रज्ञपारमितायै ।।

आर्यावलोकितेश्वरो बोधिसत्वो गम्भीरां प्रज्ञापारमिताचर्यां चरमाणो व्यवलोकयति स्म

पञ्चस्कन्धास्तांश्वस्वरुपशुन्यान्पष्यति स्म । इह शारिपुत्र रूपं शून्यता शून्यतैव रुपम् ।

रुपन्नपृथक् शून्यता शून्यताया न प्रुथग्रुपम् । यद्रूपं सा शून्यता या शून्यता तदेवरुपम् ।

एवमेव वेदनासंज्ञासंसकारविज्ञानम् ।

इह शारिपुत्र सर्वधर्मा: शून्यतालक्षणा अन्नुत्पन्ना अनिरुद्धा अमला अविमला अनूना अपरिपूर्णा: ।

तस्माच्छारिपुत्र शून्यतायां न रुपं न वेदना न संज्ञा न संस्कार न विज्ञानम् ।

न चक्षु:क्षोत्रध्राणजिह्वाकायमनांसि । न रूपशब्दगन्धरसस्प्रष्टव्यधर्मा: ।

न चक्षुर्धातुर्यावन्नमनोविज्ञानधातु: ।

नाविद्य नाविद्याक्षयो यावन्नजरामरणं न जरामरणक्षयो न दु:खसमुदयनिरोधमार्गा न ज्ञानं न प्राप्तिर्नाप्राप्ति: ।

तस्माच्छारिपुत्राप्रप्तित्वाद्वोधिसत्वो प्रज्ञापारमितामाश्वित्य विहरत्यचित्तावरण: ।

चित्तावरणनास्तित्वदत्रस्तो विपर्याप्तातिक्रान्तो निष्ठानिर्वाणप्राप्त: ।

त्र्यध्वव्यवस्थिता: सर्वबुद्धा: प्रज्ञपारमितामश्वित्यानुत्तरां सम्यक्संभोधिमभिसंबुद्धा: ।

तस्माज्ज्ञातव्यं प्रज्ञापारमितामहामंत्रो महाविद्यामंत्रो ङनुत्तरमंत्र समसममंत्र: सर्वदु:खप्रषमण: सत्यममिथ्यत्वात् ।

प्रज्ञापारमितायामुक्तो मंत्रस्तद्यथा

गते गते पारगते पारसंगते बोधि स्वाहा ।।

इत्यार्या प्रज्ञापारमिताहृदयं समाप्तम् ।।

You may want to go through the link below :

Heart Sutra with music and translation

 

The practice of wall gazing and Zazen

It is said that when Prince Bodhidharma went to China from South India he was disappointed by not being able to get the favour of the king and failed to impress him. He went to a cave outside the city and started his practice of Wall Gazing. A deep meditation which he continued for the next 9 years till he was able to know the nature of reality.

zen-mind-preview720

After chanting Om 20 times when the mind becomes calm and the breath settles down we used to start by practising the wall gazing meditation. As there was no wall in front of all the participants Swami ji asked us to concentrate our gaze on a stone instead. The stone was provided by the volunteers. The posture in which we practice wall gazing is most important. As you can see a meditation cushion is used to support the back which must be straight at all times so that the energy can flow freely within us. Apart from that the tongue should be touching the palate, teeth resting on each other not clinched, mouth should be slightly parted and a gentle smile should always be on the face. There are two more aspects of wall gazing meditation – at no point should the eyes be closed for more than lets say 15 seconds and one must have the hands on top of each other with the thumbs and he fingers forming an egg shape as below.

wall-gazing-hands-posture

All through the meditation Swami ji kept reminding us not to close our eyes, to keep the back straight and to have a gentle smile on the face.I will confess that while they do not look like supremely arduous tasks they are most difficult to accomplish even for a short period of 15 min. Even more difficult is not to think of anything else past, present and future. The mind has been compared to a monkey and I could not agree more with that statement.

Last in the meditation session was Zazen which is a slight variation to wall gazing. There is no object to concentrate or focus on. Posture remaining the same one has to just sit quitely fully aware of the moment,the surrounding, the breath and the fact that one was alive. Be here and now in this beautiful moment is the key idea. The only difference between wall gazing and Zazen is that the eyes should remain half closed and not fully open as in the first case. Again, this is not something you do intentionally but if you are not day dreaming with eyes closed or focusing on some object it should be the natural position of your eyes.

buddha-sculpture-third-eye

Here is a link on Zen Practice that may be of help.

Tea Ceremony

This was a most invigorating exercise given that all of us returned to the meditation hall at 3:30 PM after a good meal and some rest or reading in our rooms. We made groups of 5-6 people and served herbal tea to each other. The ceremony was not as elaborate as the original  Japanese one but we got a good understanding of how to do something as mundane as drinking tea, mindfully. We watched as the tea as it was poured into the cup starting with a drop and then turning to a thin  stream forming a pool at the bottom of the cup. As more tea got poured sometimes there were small whirlpools formed in the liquid. The tea was now ready to drink but before that each member of the group served it to one other member with utmost kindness and humility as if serving something precious and holy.

The next you take the cup closer to your nose and smell the aroma, let the steam coming from the cup warm your face and moisten your lips. Then slowly, very slowly being totally aware of your actions you, take the first sip. The mouth is filled with the flavor of the drink and you observe each and every aspect minutely the temperature, the flavor,the effect, the aroma and then how the drink slowly goes down your food pipe into your stomach.Honestly, I do enjoy my cup of normal as well as green tea but had never thought that the simple act can be so uplifting. I almost felt a sense of gratitude towards mother nature for giving us all the spices, the ingredients that had made such a beautiful drink. I realised how thankful we should be to enjoy each cup. Thankful first of all to nature and then to everyone in the chain who helps to bring it to us, never to forget the one who makes and serves.

Kin Hin or walking meditation 

The chief benefit of walking meditation is that we learn how to bring our mind to the present moment even in such everyday activities as walking. Also, when one meditates for long periods of time is sitting meditation it brings untold goodness to the mind but it may not be as good for the body. Movement is essential for certain functions of the body such as digestion, building muscle endurance etc.so walking meditation could provide a necessary break. Video below from a Buddhist monk explains the process of walking meditation beautifully.

Personally, I realised that Walking meditation is more effective in bringing the mind to a meditative state and in building concentration. It may be a good idea to do 5-10 Min of walking meditation before we go into Zazen.

Osoji and Forgiveness Meditation :

Osoji is a Japanese practice of getting out all the stuff in the house at one place and then deciding on each item whether it’s required or not.Typically this is done once at the end of the year and is similar to our Diwali cleaning and the spring cleaning in the west.The goal is to get rid of at least 30% of the articles which are not needed or are not absolutely necessary.

Swami ji told everyone to take the pen and note pad and write down names of people,starting from our very childhood, with whom we have a negative emotion attached. He instructed to even write the emotion that comes to our mind when we think of that person. I thought long and hard but I could not come up with any name except my wife 🙂 Jokes apart, I saw people using the second and the third page while I had just five or 6 names and that too as I had to write something down. When I scanned my memory and thought of a name I remembered what fun we had together or how that person had helped me in a certain way. I really thanked God for being blessed to have such wonderful friends around me. Of course there were few people I have never liked or who have given me a hard time but when I thought about them no emotion came to my mind. The best way for me to avenge someone has been to become completely indifferent to them as if they are dead or they never existed at all. Neitzsche wrote in his book Beyond good and evil :

It’s not that you have deceived me bothers me, I am disappointed that I can’t trust you anymore.

Next everyone was asked to crumple their papers and toss them in a trash bag which went around the hall, carried by some volunteers..

Next day as a follow up Swami ji made us do Forgiveness meditation. As he guided our chain of thoughts we had to think of that one person we hate the most and imagine that they are standing right in front of us. We had to tell them how we felt on their face and let them know that we are going to forgive them from the core of our heart for what they did  – no more grudges, no more hard feelings, no more nothing. Next we had to resolve that we have become totally indifferent to the existence of that person and visualise as if they are dissipating into thin air, never to be back again. It was a most cathartic experience for me. I felt quite light as if a huge burden has been taken away. I wondered why was I even carrying this load up until now. I really didn’t need it. At all.

Some of the other notes which I took from the discourses are listed below. These are all very important if one wants to understand, follow and practice a Zen way of life :

  • Life is transitory. Whatever takes birth must die.We are in a transient state all the time and our time on this earth will be over soon. To remind yourself of this great principle which helps to keep the ego in check and to be more compassionate with everyone around you pick a flower preferably one which has fragrance and keep it on the the dashboard of your car or next to your work desk in office or any other place where you can notice the changes hour by hour, day by day. It can remind us constantly of death as a fact of life and not some distant possibility.
  • Each one of us must have a philosophy of life. A set of rules or goals which we must follow so we become better and more adept in our practice every day. One has to be mindful at all times that every action must be aligned with the philosophy we have chosen to follow in life. Whenever you do something you must validate if it is in line with your philosophy or not. For Example one may chose below virtues and work hard to make sure they guide all our thoughts and actions at all times :
    1. Compassion
    2. Humility
    3. Self discipline
    4. Forgiveness
  • Build your practice one minute at a time. Focus on the quality of meditation not the quantity. 10 min of good quality meditation are far better than 1 hour of day dreaming. Have patience and don’t get frustrated with yourself. If you cannot sit for more than 10 min at a stretch that’s fine. Add just 2 more minutes and see if you can extend that much. To improve posture do the right exercises. There is no point doing meditation in the wrong posture. Respect medical conditions, if any.
  • Finally, the four principles of Zen practice :
    1. Sit quitely – watch the grass grow as simple as that
    2. Take care of your body – it’s like a temple. Live gently in your body.
    3. Learn to handle pain – Pain is natural.When all else fails just breathe. You are still alive. Don’t hurt anyone with painful words.Be kind. Be gentle.
    4. Non Violence – Live in harmony with nature. Nature can heal you.

With that I end this post. बुद्धं शरणं गच्छामि  …

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हम हैं कि नाम कर रहे हैं..

​अपने सब यार काम कर रहे हैं

और हम हैं कि नाम कर रहे हैं

सब हैं मसरूफ़-ए-इंतिज़ाम मगर
जाने क्या इंतिज़ाम कर रहे हैं

है वो बेचारगी का हाल कि हम
हर किसी को सलाम कर रहे हैं 

दाद-ओ-तहसीन का ये शोर है क्यूँ

हम तो ख़ुद से कलाम कर रहे हैं..

Indian E Commerce – Is the party over ?

I wrote a post on Linked in March 2016 which went viral and was trending as top posts from India on the Linked in Pulse platform on 15th March 2016. Here is the link :

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/indian-e-commerce-party-over-rajnish-kumar

Later it was published by other websites :

http://www.oneyearmba.co.in/is-amazon-profitable-is-flipkart-making-profit-e-commerce-profitable-industry-bubble-india-unit-economics-why-failing-customer-acquisition-high-cost-online-shopping-marketing-bleeding-retail-business/

Business Today carried the same cover story ( with exactly the same title ) the very next month in April 2016. It could very well be a coincidence but then it would be a very wonderful coincidence 🙂

हिंदी में बोलें तो बहुत हसीन इत्तेफ़ाक है ये !

Unlearn 

Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.

“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”

“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”

There was a long silence.

“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything