Why Worry


Why Worry

When things are beyond your control and there is nothing you can do, why worry?

‘Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.’

—Leo Buscaglia

One sultry evening, as I sat typing away at my laptop in my room, I received a WhatsApp message from a friend of mine. It did not look like anything out of the ordinary, but it had the potential to ruin my life. However, before I elaborate, I think it is important to tell the story of WhatsApp’s success for the benefit of those readers who are not familiar with how it came about.

   WhatsApp, as we all may know, is a free messaging and calling application that anyone can download, anywhere in the world except China. It was founded by Brian Acton, a software engineer who graduated from Stanford. Acton worked at Apple first and then Yahoo for around a dozen years, until in 2007, he decided to travel to South America for a year with his friend and colleague Jan Koum. On their return, both of them applied to Facebook and Twitter for jobs but both were rejected. Acton tweeted in May 2009, ‘Got denied by Twitter HQ.

   That’s okay. Would have been a long commute.’ A few months later, in August 2009, he followed it up with another tweet, ‘Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s next adventure.’

  And his next adventure changed the world. In the same year that he got rejected, on his birthday, WhatsApp was incorporated in Silicon Valley, California. The app grew exponentially, its success unparalleled. So much so that in 2014, Facebook decided to buy it, for a staggering $19 billion. By December 2017, WhatsApp had 1.5 billion active users!

   Now that you have a clearer picture of the reach of WhatsApp, you will be able to appreciate my concern when I tell you that it was the same app that people used to share a potentially controversial video of me which went viral.

  My phone buzzed. I had received a new message. A notification popped up saying I had received a video message from a friend whom I had not spoken to in years. Interesting to get a message from him. I’ll read it later, I thought. I flipped my phone over. I did not want to be disturbed during my peak productive hours of the day. Another buzz. ‘What could that be?’ my mind shifted to my phone again. I managed to ignore it. In hindsight, I should have just put my phone on silent mode, because for the next hour it buzzed ceaselessly. Now I had to check what the hoo-ha was about. 543108. I typed in my passcode (which has now changed for anyone wondering) and opened my WhatsApp. I saw a flood of messages drowning my home page, some from group chats I’m a part of, but many from individuals whom I had connected with over the years. The messages had one thing in common: they all contained a 3.4 MB video.

   To my surprise, people had sent me a video of myself. It was a clip of a joke, edited out of context from one of the lectures I had given to an audience of 1500 university students at our temple. Until then, a few videos of mine were gaining traction on YouTube, but tumbleweed gathered on my other social-media platforms.

   I played the clip. ‘In any school in India today, after ten years of working, do you know how much a teacher would save on average? Probably a lakh or two lakh rupees,’ I was saying. So far, so good. No danger detected. I was sitting on a raised cushion in our main temple hall, animatedly speaking into the microphone. ‘A software engineer in India today, after ten years of working, do you know how much he will earn on an average? Probably forty or fifty lakh rupees.’ Nothing controversial yet. Then I went on, ‘An Indian politician, not a good one, but a corrupt one, after ten years of earning through scams, will save around thirty to forty crore.’ A few heads would turn at that statement; corruption in politics is a sensitive issue in India. The next group I commented on, of which I am also a part, but not in regards to wealth, is why I started receiving furious messages. ‘Imagine what people who are wearing this can earn,’ I grabbed my khadi saffron top. Most monks in India wear only saffron to represent their renunciation. ‘One very spiritual man, a guru in India, his ten-year savings were Rs 238 crore . . . only. Another man, a spiritual, religious leader, his ten-year savings were Rs 1177 crore only. And yet another man, again a religious leader, his savings were Rs 4000 crore only!’ The crowd was silent.

   Though it was just a joke and I wasn’t referring to anyone in particular, a few people giggled, imagining whom I could have been referring to. ‘Choose your career wisely!’ I exclaimed. The audience burst into rapturous laughter and applause. It echoed around the marble walls. A few students were rolling over, laughing hysterically.

   The video was cut short there. At first, I was thrilled that people were enjoying my talk. Human nature is such that when we please others, we feel pleased ourselves. But when I scrolled through a few more messages on WhatsApp, it was clear that there was a mixed response. ‘How can a saffron-clad monk like yourself say something so derogatory about India’s spiritual gurus like that?’ one message said. ‘I found this a little offensive,’ said another. Many messages expressed the same tone of disapproval.

   How unfair! I thought initially. That video was part of a broader discourse to make the point that we focus on earning at the expense of our learning in our professional lives. I love to entertain the crowd, but only to teach life lessons. I am a monk after all, not a comedian.

   At that point, my mind went into overdrive. ‘What if this gets into the wrong hands? What if some spiritual gurus are offended? What if they complain to my ashram or the institution I am a part of or my guru? Will I bring shame to the community? Will I be banned from speaking in public? Will they sue me for defamation?’ I meant no offence to those spiritual leaders. Many of them I know personally; they are pure, sincere, and use the income they generate for constructive purposes. As messages questioning my conduct rolled in, however, I could not help but think of the worst-case scenario: What if . . .? I was not grateful for this situation at all!

  After my initial agitation, I became defensive. I started to prepare for the inevitable, planning in my head how I would explain this to my saffron-clad brethren. I even called one of my friends who was a lawyer to draft a statement in case litigation was an issue. He assured me it would not be, but my anxiety got the better of me. Each new WhatsApp message caused my blood pressure to rise.

  It did not get better in the evening. As the moon shone outside, I lay with my eyes wide open all night, clenching my thin blanket up to my chin, using it as a shield. When I was a child, I imagined a monster living under my bed, but now the only thing tormenting me was my phone charging there.

  I usually rise at 4 a.m. for my morning meditations. I rubbed my eyes and rose groggily as expected. Sitting on my wooden bed, I contemplated what had happened and what could happen. Picking up my phone, I feared the worst. I adjusted to the glare and went immediately to WhatsApp. I found multiple messages sharing my own video with me, some with anger and others with love.

  I sighed in relief, but it had only been twelve hours since the first person sent me the tormenting clip. I was still anxious. This lasted until I received a photo message from another monk.

  It is incredible how the mind works. At one moment you fear for your life, and a second later, you are entirely peaceful. Like a message from the heavens, I received a flowchart entitled: ‘Why Worry’.

  I pulled out the infographic from my favourites folder on my phone and showed it to Harry.

‘Could you please share that with me?’ he enquired.

‘Definitely’ I replied, forwarding the image to him.

  For years I had been practising spirituality, but I had never seen the principle of detachment from things beyond our control put so simply. Sometimes the simple explanations touch the heart the most. No fancy language or abstract concepts, just essential truths presented modestly to awaken the soul. Simple ideas are accepted universally. That is why I think a clip of my lecture on the concept of ‘Why Worry’ was shared on Instagram by Sean Combs (better known as P. Diddy), one of the most renowned rap artists in the world.

  It’s impossible to stop a clip once it’s gone viral on the internet. When we have a problem beyond our control, we have to turn to our spiritual strength and ask, ‘Why Worry?’ Whether or not we can do something about it, our response should not be anxiety. Learning to detach ourselves from situations that are outside our control is an imperative skill to learn for personal growth. This is not to say I favour laziness—we should do everything in our power to try and rectify the situation, but after that, we have to take our attention away from the unpleasant circumstance.

  What we see as bad at one point in time can turn out to be good for us, and what we see as good at another point in time can turn out to be bad for us. Most things in life are beyond our control; we should not judge any situation by its face value. A video that I thought would disrupt my life as I knew it turned out to be the greatest blessing. It allowed me to kick-start my journey to be able to try to help inspire millions across the globe through my social-media presence and even brought me the opportunity to convey my message through this book.

  So, I repeat, whatever situations may come our way, analyse: Is this in my control? Regardless of the answer that follows, the reply should always be, ‘Why Worry!’

  I noticed that Harry looked relieved when I talked about this. I meditated on how when we hear things that are meaningful, our doubts are dispelled. The easiest way to bring clarity to our life is to seek guidance from people who possess clarity.

  ‘Spiritual strength . . .’ he brought up. His questions were not finished. ‘To get to that level of detachment or state of gratitude, you need what you called spiritual strength. How do you get that?’ I was surprised at how attentively he had been listening even as he drove. When we are desperate, our senses become heightened and we become more attentive.

  ‘Sometimes when we get engrossed in a problem, we feel trapped in our own minds,’ I said. ‘In that state, we constantly regurgitate our issues, causing us a lot of emotional pain. A spiritual process gives us the ability to come out of this mental loop and helps transform the greatest difficulties into opportunities.’


  • Some things in life are beyond our control. When we are in that situation, we feel overwhelmed as we try everything in our power to control it. But that is useless!
  • The founders of WhatsApp did not get jobs at Twitter and Facebook when they applied, which worked out in their favour in the future.
  • Hence, what we see as bad at one point in time can turn out to be the best thing to happen to us.
  • Just as I could not control the virality of my ‘out-of-context’ video, similarly there are many situations in life that are out of our control.
  • Think: Is this in my control? If yes, you can do something about it. If no, then you cannot do anything about it. Therefore, in both circumstances, why worry?




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