Monthly Archives: August 2012


The other day I was talking to my Mridangam guru about how listening to good music or playing an instrument elevates the spirit, has a  calming effect on the mind, and helps to focus better. It has such a multiplier effect.

My guru talked about an interesting concept called Nadopasana. He said, ‘music is intoxicating and that is why renowned artists, at their peak performances completely go into a trance, and are in a state of total bliss. He said, it creates the fertile environment for the seeds of bhakti, love, devotion and service, to sprout.

According to T. S. Parthasarathy, a musicologist and scholar, The real aim of music has always been to attain self realization and through music practiced as Nadopasana, this is achieved much sooner. This accounts for the large number of saints, evolved souls and devotees among its best exponents and composers. In one of his kritis Tyagaraja calls it Sangita Upasana (worship through music). “

It is so fascinating to see the inter-connectedness of different aspects of life, that otherwise look so unrelated, i.e. Music (art)  to Devotion to Bhakti to Love to Service to the Mind to Yoga to Self Realization…


As per Parthasarthy,  “Hindu mythology says: The seven principal notes are associated with the cries of animals and birds, and are classified as follows:

Shadja (Sa), the cry of peacock; Rishaba (Ri), the sound made by the cow when calling her calf; Gandhara (Ga), the bleat of the goat; Madhyama (Ma), the cry of  the heron and the tonic of nature; Panchama (Pa), the note of the Cuckoo or Kokila, the Indian nightingale; Dhaivata (Dha), the neighing of the horse; Nishada (Ni), the trumpeting of an elephant.”

Victor Hugo, a French poet French poet, novelist, and dramatist. He is considered as one of the most well-known French Romantic writers, he writes – ‘Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.’


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The Beautiful MIND

Lets look at what a calm mind enables, and why it is so important to have a calm mind.

A calm mind puts the intellect fair and square in the center. Acting on intellect, drives clarity of thought. A calm mind establishes one in the thought of the higher, not getting caught in the trivia. One is able to work INTENSELY and INCESSANTLY delivering INSPIRING performances CONSISTENTLY and EFFORTLESSLY.

On the other hand, a mind that is not calm, results in lot of distractions resulting in average to below average performances with occasional strokes of excellence. It takes a lot of effort. This is when we feel we are putting in a lot of effort but the efforts are going unnoticed, unrecognized, leading to frustration and added mental agitation. We are in this ever compounding loop of mental unrest. You need to recognize this and break out of it.

“‘The world is a bridge, pass over it, but build not house upon it”, cautions the inscription on the facade of Bulund Darwaza, the towering portal that Akbar built at the Friday Mosque in Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar’s own life, outwardly, he had every reason to be contented and happy. Almost till the very end, everything in his life had gone exactly as he had wished; every ambition fulfilled, every desire consummated, yet he was unhappy, “Although I am the master of so vast kingdom, and the appliances of government are at my hand, mind is not at ease…’

Radhanath Swami writes ‘ The nature of the mind is to interpret non-essentials as essentials. The mind creates artificial need, believing it cannot live without them.’

How do we get to that calmness of mind? What causes the mental agitation?

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Love to be TRUE, has to HURT. Forgiveness.

In his autobiography, ‘The Journey Home’, Radhanath Swami notes ‘….. preserving loving relationships in this world requires much forgiveness, tolerance, patience, gratitude and humility. An essential virtue of humility is to accept others for what they are, despite differences. Tendency to judge others is often a symptom of insecurity, immaturity, or selfishness. Everyone is a child of God. God loves all of His children. If we wish to love God. we must learn to love those whom He loves.’

Mother Teresa in her Nobel Peace Prize lecture mentions the following ‘St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbour. How can you love God who you do not see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so this is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. ‘ I felt, I kind of understood what she meant by …love to be true, has to hurt.

Mother gives a nice example…’I was visiting a home where they had all these old parents of sons and daughters who had put them in an institution and forgotten, maybe. And I went there, and I saw in that home that they had everything, beautiful things, but everybody was looking towards the door.  I did not see a single one with a smile on their face. I asked the sister ‘why were they not smiling and why are they looking towards the door? I am so used to seeing the smiles on our people, even the dying ones smile. And the nurse said ” They are expecting, they are hoping that a son or a daughter will come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten” – and see this is where love comes.’

Mark Twain refers to forgiveness as ‘“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

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Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534) was a saint and social reformer in eastern India in the 16th century.

Lord Chaitanya taught that one should strive to be more humble than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, and to offer all respects to others while expecting none for one’s self.

Grass is happy to serve everyone, even by remaining in the most humble position under our feet. Whenever it’s stepped on, it comes right back up, to serve. We can learn from this humility.

A tree tolerates the burning summer sun while giving us shade. It tolerates the bitter cold while giving wood to keep us warm and it may stand for months without a drop of water, while giving us juicy fruits, all of this without a complaint. We should learn tolerance from the tree.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama says, when you are engaged in the practice of patience and tolerance, in reality, what is happening is you are engaged in a combat with anger and hatred. Hatred and anger, at that very instant, totally overwhelms you and destroys your peace of mind, and your presence of mind disappears completely.

Again, we see how a good understanding of these qualities so key to protecting ourselves from long-term damages, i.e. failing to recognize that it is key to keep the mind in check and make it conducive for the intellect to prevail, so that the intellect is able to come up with the right action.

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The Joy of GIVING

Bhagavad Gita says, one need not actually give anything, but just the thought of giving is in itself so rewarding and enriching…Here is an amazing story of a 10 year old that my wife shared with me this morning. I call it the ‘Joy of Giving’

“Akash’s generosity is something his parents Manisha and Gora Mukherjee inculcated in him. They taught him the art of giving when they took him to the Missionaries of Charity on his fifth birthday. That day, after school hours, he had also paid a visit to Nirmal Hriday, a home run by the order instituted by Mother Teresa.

“We wanted him to grow up with a sense of awareness of the world and realise the importance of giving. So we went to donate books, toys and clothes that could be used. I made sure that he gave up especially those toys that he was fond of,” recounted Manisha”

Mother Teresa in her biography writes ..’Some time ago in Calcutta we had great difficulty in getting sugar. And I don’t know how the word got around to the children. and a little boy of 4 years old, a Hindu boy, went home and told his parents: “I will not eat sugar for 3 days. I will give my sugar to Mother Teresa for her children.” After 3 days the parents  brought him to our house. I had never met them before, and  this little one could scarcely pronounce my name, but he knew exact what he had come to do. He knew that he wanted to share his love.’

After Mother Teresa won the Nobel Price, she told the story of a leper who had rung the doorbell of the mother’s house. It was a leper shivering with cold. Mother asks him if he needed anything from her. She wanted to offer him food and a blanket to protect himself from the bitter cold of Calcutta. He replied in the negative. He showed Mother his begging bowl. He told Mother in Bengali: “Mother, people were talking that you had received some prize. This morning I decided that whatever I get through begging today, I would hand over to you this evening. That is why I am here.” Mother found in the begging bowl 75 paise (2 pence). The gift was small but the tiny gift revealed to Mother the largeness of a human heart. It was beautiful. Even today the 75 paise is on her table.

Mother goes on to say that love begins at home and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do.

As I read these, I wrestle with a question in my mind – ‘do I truly know what is giving? My giving, pales in front of these wonderful examples.

As Smt. Jaya Row, founder of Vedanta Vision,  aptly puts it – ” we need to shift from ‘deficiency motivation’ to ‘abundancy motivation’ ” .

If only everyone shifts from an acquisition mode to pay-back mode, what a world of difference the 6.9 billion population can make to society.

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How do we get to the ONENESS?

While on the topic of Fear, I had mentioned about our inability to see the oneness as one of the major drivers. The question then we have to ask ourselves is how do we get to that oneness?

Who could be a better example than Neil Armstrong.  Neil Armstrong, (who passed away yesterday (Aug 25th, 2012), at the age of 82), when in 1969 went on the Lunar mission, there were close to 2000 reporters who watched from the Kennedy Space Center. 800+ of the reporters came from foreign countries.

The point is, we see maximum differences (non-oneness) at the physical body level, but as we shift our focus from body to mind to intellect, we start seeing the oneness in varying degrees. In the case of the Neil Strong’s Lunar mission, landing on the Moon was a shared global event,  which transcended politics and geo boundaries everyone reveled in the achievement, everyone celebrated as one.

Oneness is there in all of us, it just needs a shift in the mindset, like we are able to see the oneness when it comes to our own family.  Can we make this shift and celebrate others wins or achievements in our regular day to day life? You will notice the joy it it gives you when you cross that chasm and the immense calmness of mind you gain.

How many of us know Margaret Elizabeth Noble, born in the small town of Dungannon, North Ireland. She is none other than Sister Nivedita, who followed Swami Vivekananda in letter and spirit. Never did she utter ‘India’s needs’, ‘India’s women’. She always said ‘Our need’ and ‘Our women’. Herself an image of selflessness, renunciation and austerity, she appealed to the countrymen to rise above caste, creed and unite to fight for India’s freedom. This is real Oneness at all levels – Body, Mind, Intellect and Spiritual.

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 We fear the unknown (we walk into a building with no lights in pitch darkness).

Fear also stems from our inability to identify with the others (we don’t see oneness with others), we think we are different, we fear using individuality. When we recognize oneness, then we recognize that the individuality  / difference is only superficial (a classical example is the waves of the ocean. If we identify ourselves with the waves, we see the separateness. If we  recognize that the waves being only at the surface level perceptions and identify ourselves with the ocean, which is the core, we then see oneness, commonality, and will recognize that individuality is just an illusion. The Sanskrit word ‘Samam’ sums it beautifully ‘equal in all respects’.

     Surdas (Sant Kavi Surdas), a 15th century blind saint, poet and musician in one of his devotional songs writes:

        One iron is used in worship, another in butcher’s shop

        One is called “river”, another a “rivulet” filled with murky water; when they merge they become of one color and are known as “Sursari”(Ganges), river of gods

Fear also comes from attachments. Attachments is the baggage we carry from our past experiences. These attachments, in turn promote fear. It is difficult to let go attachments and understanding the BMI (body, mind and intellect) is integral to understanding what drives attachments and how to overcome it. Radhanath Swami writes ‘ The nature of the mind is to interpret non-essentials as essentials. The mind creates artificial need, believing it cannot live without them.’

Fear also comes from Selfishness. Selfishness morphs into mental agitation, anger and obsession. If you are angry, then recognize somewhere you are being selfish. Be in a mode of giving, be in a mode of service,

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The two DOGS within us

An old analogy from the American Indians as shared by Sri Radhanath Swami in his book ‘ The Journey Home’.

Within every heart dwell two dogs, a bad dog and a good dog, both at battle with one another. The bad dog represents our debased tendencies of envy, anger, lust, greed, arrogance and illusion. The good dog, our divine nature, is represented by forgiveness, compassion, self-control, generosity, humility, and wisdom.

Whichever dog we feed the most through the choices we make and the utilization of our time will empower that dog to bark the loudest and conquer the other. Virtue is to starve the bad dog and feed the good dog.

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You get what you deserve and not what you desire. This is such a profound statement.

We all have a lot of desires and we get too caught up focusing on the desires while missing out on the present. The key message here is that it is very important to have a goal, a plan and once you have your goal fixed, stay focused on the present and do what is needed to meet the goal, without worrying about the goal, which is out there in the future.   When we focus on the present and give our best, the fruit/desire/goal automatically follows.

As obvious as it may sound, many a time we all are too focused on the desire (fruit), leading to mental agitation, anxiety and unrest. You lose the calmness of mind which is so critical to focus on the present, and thus we land up with mediocre, below average performance.

The importance of the calmness of mind is so beautifully compared in the Bhagvad Gita to a steady lamp that is shielded from the wind.  A steady lamp sheds light all around, and so is the case with a steady mind. A steady mind allows access to knowledge. It allows the intellect to function and govern and enables the intellect in coming up with the right actions. A steady mind enables Satwic actions, whereas an agitated mind drives Rajasic actions.

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We are tired when we get up in the morning? We feel tired throughout the day? We complain we had a long day and claim to be tired? We need to closely examine, what did we do whole day to be so tired?

Insecurity, Panic, Anxiety and obsession with oneself are the primary reasons to tiresomeness. Why is a child so full of energy? We easily attribute it to age. The real reason is they are free from this obsession with the self. They don’t have anything to panic or anything to feel insecure about or anything to feel anxious about. The Gita says, if we can shed these traits, we also will have the child like energy that would enable us to performs 10 to 20 time more than what we are doing today.

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