No attachments

It is said that when Buddha inducted bhikkhunis (Pali term for ordained Buddhist nuns), he was met with considerable resistance, for he had moved away from the norm and offered women an equal place as their male counterparts. Some objected and asked him to reconsider. It was not prudent to have women in such close proximity to Buddha, they argued. Unchained by the petty views of the world, Buddha, however, did what he thought was right. The number of female followers grew rapidly in his sangha and wherever he traveled, many bhikkhunis traveled with him. This did not sit well with a lot of people and rumors spread like thoughts in a restless mind.

During one of his sojourns in a village, a small group of rowdy people hurled abuses at Buddha forcing him to cut short his discourse. They were mad at him for breaking the tradition and all that. They called him names, accused him of impiety and impropriety. Unable to bear the insult, a number of sangha members rose to their feet to confront the offenders.

“Wait!” Buddha forbade the monks raising his hand. “They are behaving like this because they don’t know me.”

He looked at the faces of his spiritual children red with anger and hurt. Buddha let a few moments roll before he said, “But, you do. Therefore, follow the path of ahimsa and sit down.”

Everyone has a whole world of thoughts, emotions, desires (mostly unfulfilled), opinions, ideas and so on in their head. What comes out of anybody’s mouth is simply a glimpse of what’s in their mind. Good and loving words tumble out from a calm and compassionate mind. Gossip and harsh words from a restless and jealous mind. It’s no rocket science. Besides,  everyone is entitled to an opinion about you. Let them.

“Does that mean, Guruji,” someone asked me, “that we just listen to their blabbering? Doesn’t being silent imply that we are not just accepting but encouraging them?”

It’s a good point but I’m not suggesting that you can only choose between silence and anger. When you are dealing with a rumormonger or a criticizer, if you are going to get angry then how are you any better though? Does that kind of behavior suit you? If anything, it’ll only ruin your own peace. As I say, under all circumstances, act in a manner that befits you. It takes patience, resolve, mindfulness and compassion to do that but, it is entirely possible. At any rate, beyond silence and hostility, there’s a third option. A better one. It’s called the Three Filters Test by Socrates.

“I’ve something important to tell you,” an acquaintance of Socrates said to him while he passed through the markets. “It’s about your friend. He—”

“Stop!” Socrates reacted. “Let me run the three filters to ascertain if I want to know it.”

The man looked somewhat confounded as Socrates continued, “First is the filter of truth. Whatever you want to tell me, have you seen or witnessed it firsthand?”

“Umm… I heard it from someone,” the man replied, “but, it is from a trusted source. I’ve observed—”

“Maybe. That does not pass my first test though,” Socrates said cutting him off, “since you don’t know whether it’s true.”

“Second is the filter of goodness. Is that a good statement you want to make about my friend?”

“Not really. That’s the reason I wanted—”

“So, you want to tell me something bad about someone but don’t know if it’s true.”

“The last is the filter of utility,” Socrates added. “Your statement about my friend, will that be useful to me?”

“Probably not, I just wanted to share…”

“Well, if the information is not necessarily true, not good, and of no use,” Socrates concluded, “I don’t want to know it.” With that the Greek philosopher walked away.

This is also my way of dealing with excessive information in the present age. Mindfully, I ask myself before indulging in a conversation: do I want to know it? Will this information fill my mind with good thoughts? Would it matter if I did or didn’t have this piece of information? After all, anyone who knows you or doesn’t know you will have an opinion about you. And, it’s perfectly fine.

What people see is what they want to see. And if they don’t see what they aspire, they’ll create it. That’s the definition of a rumor. That’s how an overactive mind imagines.

Social media has fueled our appetite for gossip. It is counterproductive and unnecessary. We waste a lot of time peeking into others’ lives. One little Nemo in the vast ocean of information. At least, I should not be a contributor on social media.

A disciple asked, “Master, is it okay for a monk to use emails?”

“Yes, son,” the guru quipped, “as long as there are no attachments.”

Om Namah Shivay

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Four Aspects of Mindful Parenting-3

Here’s the secret of joy in a relationship: don’t take yourself too seriously.

Freedom (Upeksha)

Many such scholars as Thich Nhat Hanh define upeksha as equanimity or freedom. Perhaps, the true test of trust in a relationship is how much freedom it grants, and also how such privilege is used. There’s another meaning of upeksha though: patience. And, patience is something that most parents possess and lose in abundance — strangely, at the same time sometimes.

“Do you know when Abraham Lincoln was of your age he studied under the street lamps?” This was what a father said to his 14-year-old every time he scolded him, which was nearly everyday. He thought it would inspire his child. For months, the boy listened to the same argument over and over again.

One day he couldn’t take it any more and shot back. “Dad,” he said, “do you know when Abraham Lincoln was of your age, he was the president of the United States of America!”

Be patient. Understand that when you were 15 or 20, you were going through very similar challenges too as they are facing now. You also loved lazing around, getting up late perhaps, feeding on junk food and so on. Maybe there were times when you told lies, bunked classes and fooled around. This is all part of growing up.

As parents, or in love, you only mean well but you can’t teach them everything. And you shouldn’t try to. For there are certain lessons only life can impart. And, life never transmits a lesson alone. It does so with time. We can do the best we can and the rest must be left to time. The flower of life only unfolds with time. Rushing it is wrecking it.

Be patient. Be gentle. Be kind. Take it easy.

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Reading is a way for me to expand my mind, open my eyes, and fill up my heart.

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Try to disconnect from technology and sit down with a good book on a regular basis.

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Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

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Volunteer with a local reading program.

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The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

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A room without books is like a body without a soul.

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Start a collection of your favorite books, and loan them out to friends and family.

Om Namah Shivay

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Four Aspects of Mindful Parenting-1

There’s a term often used in Vedic writings. They call it brahmachari. It’s frequently, and limitedly, interpreted as celibacy. Its true meaning, however, has little to do with abstinence. Brahmachari means the one who acts (acharna) like a divine being (brahma). To this effect, Buddhist texts call such a person Brahma vihari — the one whose conduct is noble and divine. There are four aspects of such a person. You inculcate these four and any relationship becomes divine. When it comes to love and parenting, in my view, there’s a fifth element as well.

Continuing from last week, where I covered the first one — compassion (karuna) — let me spell out the remaining four beginning with the most important one. As has become our wont, sort of, let me share a quick story first.

A contract worker had to do double shift at work. He came home knackered and irritated (you know that feeling).

“Dad,” his 6-year-old son said, “how much do you make an hour?”

“Not now, son,” he said. “Besides, you should know that it’s a rude question.”

“But, I just wanna know!”

“What the hell!” the man hollered. “Your tired father comes home and rather than giving me a hug you ask me a dumb question.”

“But, I want to buy something urgently,” the boy persisted.

“You selfish little weed!” The father lost it completely. “Get lost!”

“But—”

“No arguments! Get back to your room.”

The boy stood there with his head hung low. His eyes welled up and a tear trickled down.

“Go to your room, I said! Now!”

The son quietly walked back to his room and shut the door behind him.

At night, after the father had had his dinner and calmed down, he went to the little boy.

“I’m sorry, son,” he said. “I was very tired and I don’t know what came over me. What do you want to buy?”

“First tell me how much you make,” the boy said timidly.

“$20 an hour.”

Reaching under his pillow, he pulled out some money. Crumpled $1 bills, some nickels and dimes he had been saving for weeks.

“Here’s $10, Dad,” he said putting the money in his hands. “Will you play with me for 30 minutes?”

The father’s enraged reaction to the first question might seem unreasonable but that’s what anger is: unreasonable. In hindsight, after you’ve calmed down, you see how it was excessive or unjust but while going through the emotion, it feels right. Anyway, I haven’t cited this story to highlight anger but for an entirely different reason which leads me to the first principle of parenting.

Om Namah Shivay

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Relationships

Relationships can either take the form of strength or weakness depending on the mind. If the mind is strong then relationships can be like a gift to us, but if the mind is weak and not in control, then relationships can feel like bondage.

How would you like to see yourself – happy and bubbling with enthusiasm or dull and difficult to please?

Often you like to be pleased, appeased and cajoled. So you put up a tough, upset face and act difficult to please. If a person has to appease and please ten people all the time, it will be so tiring. People who keep a long face and expect others to cajole and appease them make others run away.

Lovers often do this. They expend a lot of energy in cajoling and this brings down the joy and celebration of the moment. It is okay for you to show your upset mood or tendency once in a while, but doing it over and over again is taxing for you and the people you love.

If you feel low, appease and please yourself. Your need to be appeased by someone else is the sign of grossness. This is the root of ignorance. If you want attention, all you get is tension.

There is a secret about relationships. Women should never make their husband feel small.

If you tell your husband, ‘You are like a vegetable, good for nothing. You are a lazy goose!’ his self esteem goes down and he really becomes good for nothing. However, hopeless or weak he is, you should always tell him that he is the best. You should pump his ego.

The whole world may say that he has no brains, but you should not say that. As a spouse you should say, ‘You have the best brains in the world.

Just because you don’t use it, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have any.’ In the same way, men should never pour cold water on women’s emotions. For women, emotional bonding is very important.

You should never complain about her parents, her father or her mother or sisters or brothers. If she herself complains, you keep quiet, don’t say anything.

If you oppose her parents, you will be in trouble and if you side with them, she will feel left out. Either way you are in trouble, so keep quiet. Simply move away from there or change the topic.

If in the relationship, both come from a sense of giving then there will be no problem. But if both want to take, there will be fights for sure. ‘I am here to contribute, what I can do for you?’ – your relationship will last longer with this attitude.

Similarly, don’t be feverish about a relationship, just relax and you will find your relationship with people will improve and become better. If you are like a leech, clinging on to somebody and bugging them, even though you say all nice words, that person will run away from you because they can’t handle it. One aspect is to give love, and another is to know how to handle love, receive love as well.

It needs only a centered, enlightened person. You have to be very much at ease with yourself. If you are at ease with yourself, everyone will be at ease with you.

Just be yourself. Be natural and simple. Relationships develop naturally. If you try to build a relationship that is when you become a little artificial and unnatural.

You like someone to be very honest, open, natural, unassuming with you. That is exactly what others also want from you. If you are a boss, what type of assistants or subordinates would you like? Someone who is open. And that is also what your boss wants. Don’t try hard to impress your boss, or impress your girlfriend or boyfriend. That is when everything goes wrong.

The best is to be yourself, natural, to be forgiving and to be in the present moment. It makes a big difference.

Om Namah Shivay

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Are you Respectful ?-6

Do you Respect your SELF?

In most exchanges of disrespect the underlying issue is not actually ‘the other’. When we hear our self think or say, “I’ve lost all respect for them”, it’s really code for ‘my self-respect has gone’. Only when our self-respect is solid and stable can we connect with others and the world and NOT be dependent on others attitude and behaviors, others respectfulness, for our sense of self. Only then are we able to NOT take anything personally. Only then are we able to recognize and understand that the violence or disobedience of ‘the other’ is just a sign that they have also lost their self-respect. And only then can we maintain our vision of their inherent worth and goodness as a human being, prior to any violations of the relationship!

But will have a decision to make for our self. Are people born innately good and learn to be… naughty? Or are some born with badness built in? Your answer will affect your capacity to give respect to all others.

Throughout history respect has become embodied in many symbolic forms. In some cultures we are taught to symbolize our respect with a gift, given as soon as we meet. In other cultures it’s customary to bow, or to salute if you’re in the military, or if you are a child then to listen attentively to the all-knowing font of wisdom that is the parent! We start a letter with ‘dear’, a mark of respect. And in some countries titles are bestowed upon those perceived to be worthy of an even greater respect than the rest.

But they are all empty gestures if our own self-respect is not intact. As soon as we lose respect for our self, which really means as soon as we lose our awareness that we are a source of love and kindness in this world, then our neediness to be recognized and respected by others will kick in. That guarantees moments of animosity and resentment when we don’t receive that which we want and often demand from others. Our disrespect may then grow over time into some form of violence. All forms if violence in the world today, when closely examined, will have this absence of self-respect and the neediness that comes with it, at their root.

That may be why we are all responsible for one thing and one thing only. To free our self from needing, wanting, desiring and craving the respect of others. Only then perhaps, will we feel ‘consistently’ OK within our self, and therefore strong enough create the other in a bright light within our consciousness, regardless of how darkly they may have behaved.

The healing effect of restoring our self-respect could change the world!

Question: Who is the person in your life you currently find the hardest to respect?

Reflection: What is the exact nature of the judgment/criticism that you are ‘creating’ around them or towards them that is in the way of your being able to accept and respect them?

Action: Separate the person from their behavior and practice seeing the innate goodness within them. When you meet them consciously demonstrate your respect for them. Watch the effect it has on you and on the relationship.

Om Namah Shivay

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Are you Respectful ?-5

Glorified Disrespectfulness!

So why is it so easy, in fact much easier to be disrespectful, than it is to be respectful? Why do we blind ourselves to the other’s value? Much of it is do with judging others against the standards that we have been taught to expect from others. If our expectations are not met, if people do not do and be according to our standards/expectations/desires (what we believe they ‘should’ do) then we start to judge and criticize, which are forms of attack. And you cannot give respect to another as long as you are attacking them in any way.

This is exacerbated by the belief that others are responsible for what we feel. Whenever we believe someone has let us down we blame them for our feelings of hurt. In that moment we cease to be capable of respecting them. Little do we realize they did not make us ‘feel hurt’, we did that all on our own!

All of this is not helped by an entertainment industry, which bases much of its creativity in the form of movies, games and shows about people being disrespectful to other people. Disrespect is glamorized and glorified, absorbed daily from a very young age, and before we know it we are all colluding to shape and build a society which has, at it’s heart, the currency of disrespect. Eventually, if this trend lasts long enough, there will probably be people who don’t know how to be respectful at all. They simply won’t know what respect is. Which is why, in some parts of some communities, even today, respect has almost become extinct.

But how can we respect someone who has committed a crime against our self or society? How can we respect someone who is violent? How can we respect someone who cheats or steals? Two simple answers. First, don’t take it personally! But that’s not so easy when life and relationships are, by definition, personal! Second, look behind and prior to the behavior and see the being that is innately good! Also not so easy as we tend to learn (be conditioned) to see people in black and white terms i.e. good or bad according to our feelings.

When children make mistakes, when they act against the standards of the community they find themselves in, we do not withdraw our respect. We maintain our respect for them as we understand, we forgive, we teach and we coach them. We nurture their growth into the world. All because we recognize their innocence, perhaps their ignorance and perhaps their naiveté. Perhaps all three! So why is it so different when it comes to our relationships with ‘big people’? If they are violent, insulting or acting in disrespectful ways, are they not also in a state of ignorance and naiveté? Have they not simply lost their awareness of how to establish and maintain a harmonious connection in their relationships? Have they not forgotten their ability to respect others and become ignorant of the mindset of respectfulness? Perhaps they never really learned how to be respectful? Whether they have forgotten, or never learned, can we blame them, criticize them, attack them mentally and emotionally, and still maintain our own capacity to respect others?

Om Namah Shivay

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Are you Respectful ?-4

Not Doing What I Want!

There are a number of factors in any relationship that will ensure respect will not appear very often or disappear altogether. Not only do we lose sight of the inherent dignity and worth of the other, our withdrawal of respect, and its replacement with animosity, simply means that we have decided that ‘they’ are not saying, doing or being exactly what we want them to say, do or be! And we are taking it personally. The moment we use prescriptive language, either in our thoughts or in our words towards another, it usually means we are not accepting them as they are. That means we are not able to be respectful. Accepting others exactly as we find them seems to be a necessary pre-requisite to the ability to extend respect, to be respect full!

So why exactly is respect becoming an endangered species on planet relationship? Why is it often referred to as the first thing to go and last thing to come back? There are number of illusions that have arisen during the last few decades that get in the way of both our understanding of respect and our ability to ‘live it’

“If he fears me he will respect me”

It starts in the playground and then it escalates all the way up into international conflict. The bully bullies and induces fear. The fear is called respect. The bully uses their ability to induce fear in another in order to get from the other what they mistakenly believe is respect. But it’s not respect it’s fear. The bullied will say they respect someone when what they really mean is they fear someone. And so it is that the meanings of fear and respect become tangled and the capacity to extend real respect is lost. This is a mindset that afflicts even the most intelligent, as it escalates all the way up to the international conflicts we see in the world today.

“You just lost my respect”

It sometimes takes the smallest things for people to withdraw their respect for another. Coming late to a meeting, not fulfilling a promise, telling a lie, giving someone else an opportunity. All such moments can trigger resentment. And where there is resentment, however subtle, even if it’s just held at a mental level, it will be impossible to see the goodness and worth of the other, so there cannot be respect.

“People need to earn my respect”

 It’s one of the most popular mantras of modern society, “Respect has to be earned”. But when challenged with the question, “What must a person do to earn your respect”, it seems very few know what to answer, or they muddle an answer around something like, “Be honest or be reliable or do what they say, or do what ‘I say’!”. But it tends to be a grey area. Often we just parrot this idea of ‘my respect has to be earned’ as it seems to give us some power of dispensation over the other. Only the enlightened soul has realized that it’s usually the other way round. Respect is what forms the foundation of any relationship and if it’s not there then there is, in effect, no relationship. The leader never waits to be respected they are always in the mode of giving, extending, their respect for all others at all times. The authentic leader is never disrespectful!

Om Namah Shivay

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