Forgiveness is a long road…

Many have wronged me (well, according to me that is, but for them it may not be…!)

The point is, I have been hurt by several people throughout my life.

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Image courtesy: http://www.onegreenplanet.org

Some have cheated me off money, some hurt physically, even worse was betrayal by some I have trusted the most…

Part of life, you may say…forgive and move on…

I have actually!

Forgiven them, even meet and greet cordially.

Question is ‘Have I truly forgiven them? Have I been able to accept them unconditionally?’

www.shapes.se
Image courtesy: http://www.shapes.se

An image has ever been stuck in my head, ‘Trust is like a crumpled paper, you may straighten it, but it won’t be the same as it was before.’

Is it the same with forgiveness?

I forgive, but forget not! May be even forget, but it remains in the deep somewhere to just pop up and hurt some day for some while…

How then do I progress?

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Periwinkle. Mother’s significance – progress. Image courtesy: motherandsriaurobindo.in

The Mother says, “When love is, the need for forgiveness does not exist.” (CWMCE 17, pg 387)

Forgiveness is a long obstacle course, taking one step a time asking the Divine’s grace to guide is the only help.

Forgiveness is praised by the Christian and the Vaishnava, but for me, I ask “What do I have to forgive and whom?”  (Sri Aurobindo, aphorism 21)

The Mother tells us when asked about this aphorism when we ask forgiveness from the Divine, what we really hope is to remove the effects of the err we have committed. Instead, what we need to ask is the power to make the necessary progress (CWMCE 10, pg 46)

 

 

Chasing life..

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image courtesy: google images

Do we all need a drastic or life changing event to be conscious of this wonderful gift of life we have?

This is a question that I started thinking about some time ago. There were several incidents which raised this question in my mind, but the TV series  with the same title, finally prompted this write-up. I watched this series ardently, mainly because it revolved around a young woman with leukemia and her journey since diagnosis.

A lively young woman, career oriented journalist, April’s life turns upside down when she is diagnosed with leukemia. After a period of grief and confusion about the disease, keeping it a secret from her loved ones, she tries hard to maintain the routine she had always had. Her career takes a hit when she has to undergo chemotherapy, her sister has to leave private school education to compensate her medical expenses. She meets and falls in love with a guy with brain tumor, marries him, goes through the emotional turmoil of his death. These are some of the experiences of this young woman who would otherwise be thinking of parties and dates!

Not one person is totally independent rather everyone is intertwined with several others in one way or the other. In this story, April’s mother, sister, best friend, ex-boyfriend, uncle and step sister all play important roles. Her disease, treatment, important milestones (as they call it in the series) etc. have a significant impact on them, she plays an equally important role in every event of their lives..

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Overall, the story talks about emotions, fears, love and support from significant others etc. in one’s life. For me, the series was captivating; there was never a dull moment; on the contrary, I would say there were several times when I had tears in my eyes (and I must reinforce that I am not one for the soap operas on TV!).

Anyway, this article is not meant to be a review of the series. There was one episode where April talked about how her perspective towards life has changed since her diagnosis. chasing-life 3 She talked about how simple things of daily life have become important now that she realized that her time is limited and life has become unpredictable, how living in the moment has become a motto for her. This was again emphasized with the story of her husband, a happy reckless millionaire whose life changed completely after his diagnosis. Afterwards, he was able to make a change, bring a smile to his friends as he brought their wishes come true; for some it was their last wish (friends from his support group), for some it was hope and for yet others it was by him just being there!.

A change in perspective, a new way of approaching the day ahead was reiterated time and again in the series. There was a change in attitude towards life, be it appreciation, gratitude or a longing to achieve the most possible of the limited time one has.

Is it how it is? Is it how it should be?

Most of us take our lives for granted! We assume that nothing is going to be wrong with our lives…

Why not appreciate this wonderful life we have been given? Why not spend every moment of every day fruitfully?

Live in the moment!

 

Am I living ‘now’?

2015 is coming to end. It is time for resolutions again!

New year resolutions also mean a rain check! Where am I on my 2015 resolutions? What about a tally of gains and losses?

Nothing!

The same resolutions are made year after year! Lose weight, meditate, read books, write, do not yell on children, etc etc etc.. a long list of things to do! And year after year they are forgotten in a week, till December and again, it is time for resolutions!

Recently, I came across a post on FB which was a reminder that it is only the calendar that changes on a new year, rest everything remains the same in your life ( a funny post but I took what struck me!)…

Got me thinking…

What have I been doing all these years? Have I ever made any real change-in myself or my situations or my environment, for anyone or anywhere?

So this year, I don’t have a list of resolutions. I don’t have a target to achieve or things to do.

“The same minute never strikes twice on the clock of fate.  There are unique moments in life that pass like a dream. One must catch them on the wing, for they never return. The present is the most important moment in life” The Mother (CWM 15, pg 79)

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Instead, I am going to ask myself-

        Am I living ‘now’?

Everyone to do their bit..

The Ganga aarti at Parmarth Niketan, is a wonderful experience! It is not just the aarti offered to the Ganga maiya, but also the efforts towards the conservation of nature captured my attention.

Parmarth ashram ghat at night..
Parmarth ashram ghat at night..

Just as people overwhelmed with devotion, listening to and singing the bhajans, they are reminded about their responsibilities to mother Ganga (and all other water sources) as well as to mother nature. People are encouraged to plant trees and/or spread awareness regarding the importance of keeping the waterbodies clean. It is sure that this message takes root in at least a few of the people who have attended the aarti.

The whole day after that, I wondered if the visitors in the ashram as well as the people around have taken heed of this advice. I observed the people visiting this holy place, and believe me, even during the off-season time, Rishikesh is a crowded place!

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Triveni ghat..

I was surprised! The roads (already narrow, more with shop keepers displaying their wares occupying half the road and cows walking around freely) were so dirty with polythene, paper, fruit peels, cow dung etc that it was a seemingly impossible maze.

But the ghats are exactly opposite…Most of the ghats I visited were clean, and the few unclean ones (unclean may be only to me) were so because there were some cows which were not toilet-trained! No plastics or trash thrown here or there, especially not in the Ganga! Hundreds of people moving around, taking bath, paying their respects to the Ganga maiya, tourists enjoying and some getting a shut-eye in the midst of all the hustle-bustle, but not one threw not even a small candy wrapper here or there! Every face had the same expression: respect and reverence!

Gita Bhawan ghat..
Gita Bhawan ghat..

Full of reverence and more determined to do my bit in protecting mother nature, I started back. On the way was a sight which angered me to the core! We were stuck in traffic for five hours on the way because of processions for ‘Ganesh visarjan’ in ‘chota haridwar’, a canal of the Ganga.  I was angry because of the traffic snarl and the blasting music from the trucks carrying the idols, but much more than being angry, I was disappointed as we passed the Ganga canal! Immersions were under way and the sides of the canal were choked with adornments from the idols, plastic etc. The wide canal had narrowed to a thin stream.

Rivers after immersion (courtesy: www.avenuemail.in)
Rivers after immersion
(courtesy: http://www.avenuemail.in)

How can people be so irresponsible? Do the citizens have no responsibility towards nature? Does someone else (the government) need to clean the mess? Do all the efforts towards ‘no pollution’ of no effect during festivals?

Is it necessary to choke the rivers for us to show our devotion to the Gods? Do we not adore the rivers too (most importantly the Ganga) as a mother?

Questions, questions!

Musings at the bank of the Ganga…

We just returned from a trip to Rishikesh, the land by the Ganga, the land of rishis, yoga and rafting…

Our mornings were quiet. We spent one day sitting on the rocks at the bank of the Ganga, just musing. On another day we leisurely visited the Shivananda ashram and on yet another day we had the darshan of Neelkanth Mahadev. A holiday which is spiritually enjoyed!

One of the main events of our days was the Ganga aarti at the Parmarth Niketan Ganga ghat every evening and it is truly a wonderful experience! As the ashramites sing bhajans and the sun go down, everyone is engulfed with reverence for the Ganga and during the aarti, one would be able to see her as a mother and not just any river. In addition to this, we are reminded of our duties to mother nature and the Ganga (and all other water sources) by a senior monk at the ashram. People are encouraged to take a vow of either spreading awareness about keeping all the water bodies (not just Ganga maiya) clean or planting some trees whenever and wherever they can. An initiative well thought of!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogOGplZLfKo

It was even more meditative sitting at the quiet bank of Ganga, listening to the sound of the river. I looked around the ghats and saw various thought provoking sights.

There were people taking a dip in the icy cold water, and wondered if they are really seeking atonement for their sins by taking a dip in the holy river! There were several people especially in the mornings, offering their prayers at the Ganga and again wondered if it is merely a ritual. I wondered if it was just a thrill of taking a dip in the cold water as it was for my kids, as compared to a spiritual sanctification as it was for me!

There were vacationers enjoying their share of adventure, on board the rafts or drifting in the water holding on to the side of the rafts. There were people from different lands with a wish to learn ‘yoga’ all around, all of them holding a yoga mat dear. After all, Rishikesh is the yoga capital of the world! I could see many of them practicing early in the dawn at many of the ghats. Got me musing (again!) how casual I am with my life, unconscious, unbothered of the countless blessings I am constantly showered with!

One day I saw a person playing a flute at the Ganga ghat. He played well, music soothing to the ears.( I am no judge of right or wrong but I liked it!) but much more thought-provoking was his attitude. Playing the flute was his sadhana, standing in the Ganga and offering music to her. Not bothered about the people around, with closed eyes he went on for quite a while before we made his acquaintance (well, that’s another story…)

Overall, an educative trip I would say!

Think, think & think more…

Sometime back I had the pleasure of reading the ebook ‘The thinking Indian: Essays on Indian Sociocultural Matters in the light of Sri Aurobindo’ by Beloo Mehra.

Beloo has been my mentor during my studies with SACAR and is a dear friend. This is the review I wrote for her book.

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I present here some of my views regarding Dr. Beloo Mehra’s e-book ‘The Thinking Indian’, a collection of essays on several Indian Socio-cultural matters, as seen in the light of Sri Aurobindo.

Recently, during a casual conversation with a friend, our topic turned to the method of education being provided in the schools these days. We were talking about how today’s children are not interested in reading and how their thoughts are limited. ‘Thinking out of the box’ is out of question, we opined, but let them at least think! As I was reading through the e-book ‘The Thinking Indian.’ I remembered this conversation and about the ‘thought phobia’ (as Beloo quotes Sri Aurobindo) which has become fairly common now.

In the prelude, Beloo mentions that it is heartening to see people are becoming more open-minded and curious learners. This e-book is an excellent aid for such people, especially the young generation to contemplate about the current events and widen their spectrum of thought. The topics and instances provided in these essays may act as a spark to the light the fire within. All the essays are written in an ‘easy to read’ manner which will definitely appeal to every reader and not only those with an academic frame of mind. There is definitely at least one topic to which every individual can connect.

This e-book consists of nine essays related to Indian socio-cultural matters. Beloo presents a myriad of topics ranging from Spirituality, Hinduism to commercialism and movies! And all topics are contemporary, making them interesting to even the ‘not concerned about what is happening in the world’ younger generation. There is one essay inspired by the movie ‘The Monuments Men’ and there are two essays based on the TV serials ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata.’ There is one essay about spirituality being the master-key of Indian mind and another one about Indian culture.

For the one who is more materialistically oriented there are essays on commercialism and the study of Indo-American people where she talks about the evolution of the group soul. I am sure all these essays give a different point of view regarding the matter and would definitely encourage the reader to explore more regarding the same. For example, in her essay ‘Don’t Blame the Culture’ she talks about two sides of a behaviour may be seen simultaneously. One may see some people jumping the queue in a public place and at the same time there may be some people who will let a more deserving person move ahead of them! Presenting such examples, she forces us to think about the individual behaviour rather than the common trend of blaming the culture.

In most of her essays, Beloo gives us some questions to ponder on. In her first essay, ‘Spirituality, the Master-key of the Indian Mind’ she asks, “What does it mean to grapple with the infinite and how is it native to Indian mind?” Another interesting question is given to us in the second essay ‘Don’t Blame the Culture’ when she asks, “Shouldn’t we be concerned about learning what a culture really is before we start finding faults with it?” Or when she asks, “Can a piece of art be more worth than a human life?” in the essay ‘On Movies, Art and Culture.’ I am sure each of the readers would really stop for a while to think about these questions.

Many of her essays are lined with her personal experiences or observations as well, which are again some things that the reader will be able to connect with. One example where I did sit up and thought “This happened to me too…” was the picture of the sunset on page 22. Just as Beloo did, I too said, “Wow, what a beauty!” And as I continued to read her explanation of ‘The God’s Labour,’ I was mesmerized! I would not be doing justice if I talk about it here, it would be better if one reads the author herself! This is just one example. There are several such instances in this e-book which I am sure the readers will be able to identify with. In many of these instances, the reader may see that Beloo has given words to bring out his/ her own sentiment.

There is one essay about the Hindi novel ‘Abhyuday’ titled ‘Re-telling Classical Literature, Awakening a Generation: Case of Ramayana.’ In this essay, she talks about how the author presents Ramayana in the modern setting and the relevance of Ram in the present intellectual society. Here also she provides certain instances to explain this point. How Ram faces the dilemma of war, how he learns about the cruelty and oppression faced by the people and even the story of Ahalya is told in a new perspective. Beloo has to be given credit that I, one who is not very fond of Hindi literature, is tempted to read the novel after reading what she has written about it!

As Beloo says in the title of the e-book, her essays are in the light of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo’s words are significant even now and inspire everyone who turns to Him. To quote her, “It will be well worth reminding ourselves of these words of Sri Aurobindo that are meant to guide us through these wrong steps and detours, an inspire us to search for the soul of India that is leading her to her unique mission in the world.”

I could go on about how this little e-book ‘The thinking Indian’ is a motivation for every individual, but it would definitely be better for each to read on his/her own and be invigorated.

To conclude, I wish that the vibration of positive and open thinking which Beloo inspires is well received and more and more people are motivated by her.

Helpless

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Image courtesy: google (stills from the movie)

I watched the movie ‘Extremely loud and incredibly close’ starring Tom Hanks, Thomas Horn and Sandra Bullock, a few days back. The movie is about a child who was extremely close to his dad and lost him in the 9/11 attack. The movie tells the story of how the child finding a key in his father’s closet goes on a search which will fit the lock, thinking that his father left something for him, in a box somewhere.

There are several ideas which simultaneously play out in the movie. The loss of lives in 9/11, the helplessness and uncertainty of the people during/ immediately after the attack, the journey of a child towards coping with the death of his father, a mother’s efforts to understand her child’s thinking pattern etc.

A lot of emotions passed through my mind as I watched the movie, I even had tears in my eyes at the end,  but the one feeling which stayed with me for days was the feeling of helplessness during the 9/11 attacks. I am certain all the people who were in the world trade center at the time of the attack and all the people who were aware of their loved one’s presence there at that time might have had the same feeling of helplessness as portrayed in the film. The communication lines were disrupted, panic everywhere, people pushing, fire…I can’t even imagine!

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In the movie, the father who was in the twin towers during the attack, desperately tried calling his son to talk to him, make him understand and eventually left multiple messages on the phone. His wife tells him when she hears him from the site, to come home, but the helplessness in her voice is unmistakable. She knows she is unable to do anything. The child is unable to pick up the phone as his father tries to call…he understands the situation but is feeling scared! The probable last minutes of the father’s life is spent in a desperate attempt to talk to his son.

I kept thinking about how and what the outcome of the attack was. The wounds of the people affected by that attack is yet to heal!

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Image from google

This is not just the story of 9/11. There are incidents like this every day, somewhere in the world – the terrorist strike on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, train bombings in Chennai, strikes on churches, temples…Then there are wars – wars against terrorism, war to protect a country’s borders…

Who and what did anyone gain by killing all the people?

What is gained when nations go to war?

What does anyone gain when hundreds of people are killed?

The people who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack, the people who lose their lives in a terrorist strike, are not even aware of what and why they died. The loved ones who are left behind feel helplessness.. It is always easy to tell them about moving on, but is it ever easy to go on after losing a loved one? Does the feeling of emptiness ever leave?

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Image courtesy: google

The helplessness while waiting for any news, the desperateness of not even finding one’s loved one’s remains, the pain which remains with you for ever….

Living in harmony

I was getting more and more excited as we neared Kochi air space & I looked down the window of the air craft. The view below was mind blowing…mountains after mountains all covered with dense forests…rivers appeared as thin lines in between the green…Even when flying over towns, I could see only greenery, with houses in between; very much in contrast to the metros where one can see only concrete jungles & a few trees here or there!

True, I am a malayalee, born and brought up in this green state, but I do not think I have appreciated the ‘God’s own country’ as much as I did now…

Since I was not able to take any pictures from the air, I am posting some pictures around my house..

Photos courtesy: Biplab
Photos courtesy: Biplab

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Much as the consequence of the progress of mankind, industrialization and development, the greenery has shrunk! Men encroached, nature regressed! Or rather the forests around us were forced to regress…

Similar thought occurred to me when we visited Bangalore a few days later. Once called a land of several lakes, now Bangalore has become more a land of tall buildings. To my dismay, I saw even the few small lakes which are still around are full of garbage and waste water from the apartments around them. It was even more saddening to see the dead fishes around the edges of the lake!

Is this progress? Is this how we treat our own land? Living in harmony with nature, do we inhibit progress?

On one side, people clear forests to make space for buildings and on the other side, there are people who try to amalgamate with the sorroundings, without harming the trees! A visit to the ashram of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar , the ‘art of living’ campus in Bangalore was as if an answer to this query.

A view from 'Vishalaskshi Mandapa' in the 'Art of living' campus.
A view from ‘Vishalaskshi Mandapa’ in the ‘Art of living’ campus.

Spread over a vast mountain, this ashram houses a ‘goshala’ which has 300 cows, agricultural land where pure organic products are cultivated, an animal care shelter where one can see rabbits, deers, peacocks, several birds. As our guide told us, there are even two elephants in the forest! This place is a true example of living in harmony with nature..

I resolved to make more effort towards Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’. To lighten the burden on our earth!

Some images which I caught my attention as I browsed through the posts of a friend are given below.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpa1/v/t1.0-9/10516750_10153605421498676_7221281696120905793_n.jpg?oh=598c4c4e6b7c026048114b5ba4b53ca1&oe=561FFCB2&__gda__=1445615780_406d7ccba278932d74a82d35c0e4d9f4
https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpa1/v/t1.0-9/10516750_10153605421498676_7221281696120905793_n.jpg?oh=598c4c4e6b7c026048114b5ba4b53ca1&oe=561FFCB2&__gda__=1445615780_406d7ccba278932d74a82d35c0e4d9f4

https://scontent-hkg3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xta1/v/t1.0-9/11536045_10153605421608676_3625488696284882465_n.jpg?oh=12d4533fbc78d80f8d709572b2e98600&oe=561E8397
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Let me contribute atleast a little!

Cleaning and clearing…

This post is inspired by the status mentioned on my friend / mentor Beloo’s FB page regarding therapeutic effect of cleaning and dusting (“Whoever says he/she would rather have a ‘life’ (whatever that means) than clean and dust hasn’t discovered the therapeutic benefits of cleaning and dusting.”). Beloo, I hope you don’t mind my using your statement as an inspiration and quoting you..

I correlated my experience as I read her status. My house is usually a mess by evening! A soft toy here, a piece of puzzle there! Snack plates, glasses on the table and floor in front of TV! It’s a sore sight and the whole place would appear to be a maze, difficult to negotiate through, unless I start picking up! And the sight alone can make the blood rush to my face. Often I start shouting and order my kids to clean up the mess. But on some days when I am in a lighter mood, I start picking up the stuff. As the room becomes cleaner I  feel my mind also calming down.

There are some days when I would feel clouded within… I would be angry for no reason. And a terrible sadness would engulf me! Nothing helps during these times, nothing I read, no music and not even the TV series I follow! During one such time, I decided to clean my house, thinking it to be better than not doing anything. I started cleaning up one corner of house and then went on to make a whole room spic and span. As I cleared one space after other, I could feel my mind too decluttering. By the end of the day, I was physically tired but mentally and emotionally clear and happy.

Decluttering of the material space around us seems to be directly propotional to the decluttering of our minds! Is it the first step of cleaning our inner selves?

Temple of the Lord…

There was an old temple in shambles. Though there was a priest to perform the necessary prayers, not much attention was given to the temple at all. Over a period of time, the physical structure had gathered dust and mould, the walls were cracked, the arts and crafts were damaged and the sculptures missed some parts here or there.

One fine day, someone realized that the temple needed repairs. So, the place was dusted, cleaned and repaired! Cracks were filled, the art were renovated, the sculptures were repaired… Day after day, months after months, the painstaking work continued.

And finally, the temple was restored to its original glory!

All the religions and the spiritual teachers say our body is a temple. The temple of the Lord, the Divine resides within us and everything we do is an offering to the Divine within.

But then, what about the lack of attention? The fries, soft drinks and other unhealthy food we put in our body, the lack of exercise  leading to accumulation of fat all over the body, the unhealthy emotions we carry all day long and the cobwebs gathered in our minds due to lack of use?

It is time to finally realize the extent of the damage we do to ourselves! It is time to take a rain check and amend our ways!

Slowly, one step a time, we have to make the changes to bring our self to its full glory, to stand tall and make ourselves worthy of the Divine residing within.

A drastic change is not feasible, but at the same time, change is not impossible! The only essential thing is the determination to get through…the courage to get back up on the feet when you fall…the strength of the mind to resist temptations…

It is time to restore this beautiful temple back to its actual glory!