The Dust of Identity

  The Dust/Grime of Identity   T he intellect is like a scalpel. Its function is to slice through reality and enable you to discern one thing from another. If a knife has to cut through anything effortlessly, it is important that the substance it encounters does not stick to it. A sticky knife is obviously an ineffective implement.  Suppose you use a knife to cut a cake today; tomorrow you cut meat; and the day after tomorrow you cut fruit. If all these residues were to stick to the knife, it would turn over time into a useless instrument. You’ve probably experienced this already: if you cut mangoes or apples after cutting an onion, everything tastes like onion! Such a knife becomes more of a hindrance than a help. In other words, once your intellect gets identified with something, it gets chained to the identifications, and leaves you with a completely distorted experience of the world.  Once it happened…For political reasons, Akbar, the great emperor, was separated in his infancy fro

Live in "Day-tight Compartments"

Live in "Day-tight Compartments"  In the spring of 1871, a young man picked up a book and read twenty-one words that had a profound effect on his future. A medical student at the Montreal General Hospital, he was worried about passing the final examination, worried about what to do, where to go, how to build up a practice, how to make a living.  The twenty-one words that this young medical student read in 1871 helped him to become the most famous physician of his generation. He organised the world-famous Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He became Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxfordthe highest honour that can be bestowed upon any medical man in the British Empire. He was knighted by the King of England. When he died, two huge volumes containing 1,466 pages were required to tell the story of his life.  His name was Sir William Osier. Here are the twenty-one words that he read in the spring of 1871-twenty-one words from Thomas Carlyle that helped him lead a life free from wo

Thinking Yourself Out of Life

  Thinking Yourself Out of Life  It is only because you exist that you can generate a thought. But your thought process has become so compulsive that your focus has shifted from the existential to the psychological. This has happened to such an extent that you have begun to believe that you exist because you think! The foundations of Western philosophy actually rest on the famous axiom by the seventeenthcentury French philosopher RenĂ© Descartes: “I think, therefore I am.”  It is time to restate a fundamental fact: you are, therefore you may think. This has nothing to do with any philosophy, Eastern or Western. It is a simple existential reality.  You can “be,” and still choose to think or not think. The most beautiful moments in your life—what you might consider moments of bliss, joy, ecstasy, or utter peace—were moments when you were not thinking about anything at all. You were just being. Even without your thoughts, existence is.  What are thoughts really? Just information that you h

Miracle or Mess?

 Miracle or Mess?  Once it happened…A man wished to acquire supernatural powers. He went from one guru to another, desperately in search of instruction. He eventually found his way to a remote hermitage in the Himalayan wilderness.  The guru of the ashram divined the purpose of his quest and tried to dissuade him. “What will you do with these powers? So what if you learn to walk upon the water? After three days, a boat will be better! Don’t waste your life on these irrelevant pursuits. Let me teach you meditation instead.” The master made many attempts to dissuade him, but the man was adamant.  The guru finally said, “Well, if you’re so determined, take a dip in the river tomorrow morning at four o’clock and come to me. I will initiate you into the secrets of the supernatural.”  The man was excited. He took a pre-dawn dip in a freezing Himalayan river, turned half blue, and came and sat expectantly before the master.  The guru said, “See, this is very simple. I have a secret mantra. If

Morsel of the Earth

  Morsel of the Earth  Your physical body, as yoga reminds us, is annamayakosha, or a food body, just a heap of the nourishment you ingest. The food that you consume is, in turn, just the earth. You are a small outcrop of this planet prancing around and claiming to be an autonomous entity. But since you are a small extension of the earth, whatever happens to the planet happens to you too—in some subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways.  This planet is part of a larger body that we call the solar system. What happens to that system affects the planet. This solar system is part of a larger body we call the universe. Maybe it is beyond your perception right now, but because your physical form is just a fragment of the planet, everything that is happening to any part of the universe is also in some way happening to you!  As incredible as it sounds, if you maintain your physical body in a certain way, you will become aware of subtle changes that happen in the planet and the cosmos. Once you


 INTENSITY OF INACTIVITY  Logically, somebody who never put effort into anything should be the master of effortlessness. But it is not so. If you want to know effortlessness, you need to know effort. When you reach the peak of effort, you become effortless. Only a person who knows what it is to work understands rest. Paradoxically, those who are always resting know no rest; they only sink into dullness and lethargy. This is the way of life.  For the Russian ballet dancer Nijinsky, his entire life was dance. There were moments when he would leap to heights that seemed humanly impossible. Even if one’s muscles are at peak performance, there is still a limit to how high one can jump. But in some moments he would seem to transcend even that limit.  People often asked him, “How do you manage this?”  He said, “There is no way I can ever do it. When Nijinsky is not there, only then it happens.”  When someone is constantly giving a hundred percent, a point comes when one surpasses all limits a

Life Sense: Knowing Life Beyond the Senses

  Life Sense: Knowing Life Beyond the Senses How does the human body make sense of the world? What is its source of knowing?  The answer is obvious: through the five senses.  Whatever you know of the world or yourself is information you have gathered only through the five sense organs—by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. If these sense organs fold up, you would know neither the world nor yourself. When you sleep every night, suddenly the people around you disappear, the world disappears, and even you disappear. You are still alive, everybody around you is alive, but in your experience everything evaporates, because these five sense organs have gone into “shutdown” mode.  The sense organs are limited. They can perceive only that which is physical. If your perception is limited to the five senses, naturally the scope of your life will be restricted to the physical. Additionally, the senses perceive everything only in relation to something else. If I touch a metal object a

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