To pray or not to pray

Many years back I read a book titled, ‘The Energy of Prayer’, by spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh. The book starts so perfectly with, “urge to pray is universal. We know of no culture, past or present, in which prayer does not occur… ” The book managed to start a frantic inquiry in my mind.

Without meaning any disrespect to the book or to the prayer, I would like to put my own thoughts on this point, meaning importance of prayer. My religion allows me to have my own intellectual interpretation of religious rules or tweak the religion according to my own analysis, intelligence and needs. Well, I feel sometimes prayers work and sometimes they don’t. There are no rules that it will surely work, just like no one can claim that it will never work. But millions of people pray in different religious ways. Some people quietly drop loads on money, gold and precious jewels into the temple donation-boxes. For them this too may be a prayer. Getting rid of hard cash keeps them safe from robbers and income tax. But also their prayers are answered with more cash and even more diamonds in return. So are their prayers working? Most people in this world do remember God, mostly as a natural instinct. When I yawn I migth say ‘ooooh god’. I don’t mean to remember god, it is just a reaction. For people of all faiths, speaking out the name of their God has been a habit, part of psyche, and genetics for centuries. In my opinion prayers too fall in the same genetic habit category.

The book tells a story of a young kid losing his pet white mouse, who has walked into a hole. Kid prays for 2 hours, but the mouse does not emerge. Kid is upset. He derives prayers do not work. Later the moral of the story is revealed, ‘since the kid was not praying for the wellbeing of the mouse; but was being selfish to get his friend back and that is why his prayers did not work’. Well isn’t everyone attached to various things and people around them and pray for the welfare of those. There would be no reason for anyone to pray unless there is something to pray for. But as soon as you have something to pray for it becomes a selfish motive. Asking God for upturn in your fortune, good health of a friend, getting a son, getting admission in IIM… is asking God to run errands for you. Praying with benefits in mind is reducing God’s value…
Let me analyze my own life as a sample case. I do not pray to anyone or any God. I am not a praying type, period. I believe in science and logic and thus do not find prayers logical. Praying is no way to get results in life. I cannot depend on prayers for success. In my younger days I too wished, prayed hard and worked hard to get so many things, but whatever I wanted never came to me. On the other side whatever I have got in my life has fallen in my lap on its own. So, prayers did not come in the picture. It is a simple law; ‘you get some, you don’t get some’. As the Urdu couplet goes, ‘har kisi ko muqammal jahan nahin milta, kabhi zameen to kabhi aasman nahin milta’ (people’s wishes do not get fulfilled entirely, sometimes the earth and sometimes the sky is missing)
So if you want something in life, use all the faculties God has already blessed you with like intelligence, strength, cunning, will power, smartness… and what have you. Just use these and get your piece of cake in life. You don’t need to pray for anything. Getting results on your own merit makes you more content and happy, than struggling on your knees and then getting it. People always have more respect for things they earned the hard way. If you have received a gold medal in a field, you would value it much more than all the expensive gifts that family receives every X’mas or Diwali. No one will ever part with any medal; but all the easy coming gifts are hauled away into a dark loft, to be lovingly gifted to other praying mantis, later on.
In recent times there has been only one occasion when I prayed desperately hard to get a certain result. It was because the nothing was in my hand, neither the action nor the result, only prayer was. But I did not pray to any usual, run of the mill known, but unseen and unfelt God. I chose to involve real entities like mountains, rivers, sun, moon, rain, sea, wind etc. I asked for their strength. Well, the result did go in my favor. If I want I can easily call it as my victory; but I don’t want to. It could have gone the other way too. It was only a matter of chance. Logically I doubt the effectiveness and dependability of prayers. For example ‘if you prayed for something and you got it, can be one part. But there is no proof that if you didn’t pray for it, you will not get it!’ For this you have to repeat the scene with same and not similar situation. It is not even a take 2. Take for example a Sikh couple in Punjab prays hard for years, to get a son as their first child; and they get it. Now to complete the experiment there has to be another but same situation. Same couple has to be used to determine the sex of their first child, but this time without prayers. It is impossible to do it. And that is a lacuna. There is no way to check both sides of the story; unless of course we ask the superman to turn the earth around in reverse direction and take the couple back in time, before the wife conceived for the first time. Prayers are a way to keep oneself content and happy, especially if things do go wrong. We can say, ‘we did pray hard for this but hard luck.’

Here I will narrate an incidence that happened in my family. Long ago an astrologer told my aunt that her son, Suresh (name changed) had a fatal confluence of planets in his birth chart. Obviously everyone at home got worried. Astrologer recommended a full course of ‘Maha Mrutunjay Yagna’. It was sincerely performed at the earliest available date. Years passed, after his education Suresh joined Indian Air Force. He used to enjoy flying and he was good at it. Soon he got married and had a daughter. In due course he was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader. One day he was taking his wife and the baby girl for an outing on his motor cycle, when a speeding truck driven by a drunk driver smashed into them. Sunil died on the spot and other two thankfully survived. If I take astrologer’s true reading as a ‘constant’- which means that the accident has to happen.
The lesson that I learn from this story is that if ‘Maha Mrutunjay Yagna’ (prayer) was not performed and same accident would still happen; then the entire family, especially the parents would have never forgiven themselves till eternity. But performing it, kept them away from the guilt and scare of the eventuality, until the very day, it happened. And even after the accident, they would not feel guilty; since they did, what was in their power to do.

With every passing day this planet will go on becoming harsher and less inhabitable. Day to day survival will depend on your own strength, alertness and reflexes. You may find this statement entirely nonsensical, since today no one is ready to think this way. All the religious blabber has been so ‘politically correct’ for centuries. But after a century we will say, ‘who needs God, I have to do it myself ’, or ‘you can sit on your bottom and pray; but I am going out and getting it done.’
Obviously the world will grow less dependent on prayers, gods and religion; until a day will come when the ‘Word’ would have lost its significance… and forgotten. (Collection 2008)

Keep Walking

In life when we all move ahead to achieve our goals, be it just reaching the office or improving the bottom line of a manufacturing unit, we come across various obstacles.
As a person moves ahead on a certain path, he meets so many obstacles or doors that are shut, breaking his progress. Obstacles have to be overcome and the doors have to be opened in order to move ahead in the direction one has chosen. So what do we do when see a door shut on our path from a distance itself? Do we stop in out tracks right there, or reach the door then see what happens, or may be slow down the speed and watch if the delay helps or just move with confidence? And finally when we reach the door do we just push open it if it is still shut or find an alternate route without even touching it?
The kind of decisions that we take tell a lot about our attitude to life. We could be a pessimist, optimist, unconfident, over confidant, scared or couldn’t careless types. There is no denying that everyone’s life has challenges, obstacles or if nothing, tricky situations. And if anyone has to get anywhere he has to keep moving in the chosen direction.
What I do to go about in life could be considered between optimistic and reckless. I must be having it from my childhood. I remember when I was just 12 years old I used to cycle very fast. I was in Allahabad, which is fairly a big city. I had to cycle about 5 km one way between my home and school. I had to cross many heavy traffic zones. Although there were mostly bicycles, cycle rickshaws, few cars and scooters, but I went fast right till the point I met the real stop point. My reflexes were good and I was confidant of myself. But what I realized that mostly I went through the traffic in the same speed, because I found some gap that got created by the time I got there. That was an attitude of an optimistic to the point of being reckless. It is also true that I would have definitely braked if I was going to bump into something in front. So somehow I got trained into acquiring that attitude in life.
No sensible person really would kill himself on purpose. There is no way through the two head lights of a truck, obviously. After all of us are carrying a lot of responsibilities, of our family, work, our health and social ones. But the attitude of always playing safe can eat into the height our success could have reached, if we were a little bold.
I feel most of my decisions have gone right. I jumped into studying films without knowing the consequences. I was just so excited. Living so far from Bombay, I had never thought that movies could ever be my career. I was fascinated. I never imagined that I will be making money from those stars, whose films I would not be able to watch because I had no money. I only dreamt about them day and night. Even when I got my admission in the film school I was not sure where I was headed, after I finished. But I went ahead, studied hard and when I reached Bollywood, the doors just opened. Now I have been around here since 1972 and did fairly well too.
I am not trying say that this is the attitude to be followed. I am also not saying that all of my decisions have been right. I am only trying to put across that if someone does not walk with a resolve of finding the doors open by the time he gets there, then a lot of his time and valuable opportunities may be lost. Perhaps one should consider the doors and obstacles in your path more like illusions rather than reality and just keep walking.

A Genuine Enquiry

Do you know how old is this earth? It is billions of years old, 13.77 billion to be precise. Man did not exist at that point of time. On the time line of eternity man has evolved very recently compared to earth’s age. We have all came up from a single cell organism to this present state. Some theories say we evolved from fish, to birds, to monkeys as our ancestors. According to a scientific study, if entire time of the earth’s existence is condensed into 100 hours then evolution of modern times would measure only a few seconds. By modern times we can say when spoken word developed and we started using intelligence for our benefit. We started staying in groups to avoid being attacked, robbed or killed by other groups and to flourish. As the time flew many inventions kept coming, starting from rough stone tools for hunting, to the wheel, then to clothing to save us from acute weather conditions. We started keeping animals as pets to serve us, either for milk, meat, or even to carry us around and later to work for us in agricultural fields.
Sometime later psychology and mind games entered human domain. For the first time the leaders ruled over their group for everyone’s safety. A good reason or even scare was developed in the community, in order to stay together, to fight the enemy jointly and keep the produce, women and children of the tribe safe. Somebody must have been too intelligent to order the community ‘when in danger, always gather under such and such (strategically located) tree, a stone or a certain person’. I guess this was the beginning of politics and religion. Leaders learnt that ‘leading’ gave them immense power over people and that was very beneficial and intoxicating. So from that time onwards we have only been the victims of these two social orders, religion and politics. The benefits reaped by that world by the use of religion and politics, have much out weighed the harm by its misuse, in our so called civilized world. Due to the religion, we have gone through the worst period of wars, mass killings, ethnic cleansing, Jehads, countries breaking up etc. I seriously question the utility of religion for providing any benefits what-so-ever, to human race. A sensible businessman will just drop harmful and useless items or activites from his list, which costs much more compared to the benefits from it. ‘Religion balance sheet’ shows only losses. Religion is not a necessary condition for anyone to be a good human being. People can be ‘good people’ and do very well in any field without the contribution of religion in their lives. People who are busy making money to look after their families may have no time for it. If a beggar starts praying in place of begging; without doubt, he will have to starve. Well, I hope sooner than later, constructive people will get to know the value and real utility of conventional religion and they will revolt against this concept. Charity begins at home. So, I have put religion out of the list of ‘important things’ in my life. Hoping that some others too may be thinking like me, the process may have already started. I sincerely feel it is worth trying to live without religion or at least reduce its importance in our lives and check out the so called ‘balance sheet’. I am sure we will have more time to meet friends, play with our children and do our jobs well at the office.
Any changes on these lines will be possible if other than only eating, talking, traveling, sleeping, having sex, exercising and just surviving, we allocated ourselves time to ‘think’! We have never thought that it is important to close our eyes and ‘think’, which is such a constructive mental exercise. Think about new ideas; think how to solve a mystery or find creative solutions to family’s problems. To make our lives fruitful, we need to think what is useful in our life and what is not and then work on weeding out the useless parts.

To wrap it up, I recently read that the amount of happiness that science and technology have given us in the last 100 years much out-weighs the happiness given to us by religion in the past 2000 years!

‘What the hell are we doing’, isn’t this enquiry justified now?

Two Flowers

Nemo and the Ocean

Last month I read 5 books – a record for me. And none was begged borrowed or stolen. I got them from my favorite bookstore ‘Crossword’, recently open in Shopper’s Stop, Juhu. 2 books were old ones by Irvin Wallace, ‘The Seventh Secret’ and ‘The Miracle’, ‘Five Point Some One’ by Chetan Bhagat, about a student’s account of his years in Delhi IIT, ‘Soul Curry for You’ by Amitabh Bachchan, and a book on corporate cartoons. Now I am onto something called ‘Vihap – The Secret of Ecstatic Living’. It is written by one of Film Institute guys called Bhaskar Perinchery. He was a direction student in Jaya Bhaduri’s batch. So we studied together for one year (1969-70).
After he left FTII in 1970, we heard that he went to Haridwar or some such places in search of himself. At that time we defined it as ‘he has lost it, got into smoke and stuff, could not manage his life etc’. Today, I guess it was too early to declare all that without having first hand knowledge. Recently, I was given more authentic version of what had happened. I was told that initially Bhaskar had joined Osho in Pune and he did so well there that he was sent to run another Osho Ashram in Germany. Later he started on his own and established himself as a Guru. The back cover of his book says,”Bhaskar Perinchery is initiator of the Universal and Multiversal Academy (UMA) in Freiburg, Germany… he is also leading seminars for the inner growth and human unfoldment all through Europe.”

Now we come to the point. I started reading his book and straight away hit a passage in the form of a short story. Bottom line of the story is that in the matrix of nature, we all are equal players. Human beings play as pivotal a role as the tree and a tiger or river and a squirrel. The story drives home this point so very simply, clearly and definitely, that amazed me. It seems Bhaskar had come to Mumbai sometime back, met few of his batch mates and gifted this book to them. Vishnu Mathur, who was Bhaskar’s classmate, has lent it to me. We both are presently working part time in FTII. This book may not be available in India, which why I wanted to share it with you all. The story is about a fish just like ‘Nemo’, an inquisitive school going fish with doting parents.

The mother is a homemaker who does not have all the answers for her son’s inquiries and the father, who stumbles but manages to find Nemo simple answers. I think more people should read it through ‘you all’, because of its simplicity of tackling a topic that can help save the earth. Well… you may feel it is hell of a claim. But… read on –

Nemo: mommy what is ocean?
Mommy (rotating her eyes around): this all ocean. We are living in it. Can’t you see it?
Nemo: yeah but… this is all water.
Mommy: yes this water is called ocean.
Nemo: but why it is so important, if it is everywhere? It is here, there, everywhere. What’s the big deal?
Mommy: why if there is a lot of something it does not become unimportant.
Nemo: OK but why is it such a serious business. Everyone goes on ‘ocean ocean…’
Mommy: I don’t know what you are asking. I gave you the answer; but I guess you are not ready to take it. Go to your father and ask if he has a better language to make you understand.
Nemo feeling a little sad that he made mommy upset, hugs her. Then sheepishly asks,
Nemo: where is daddy?
Mommy: where else? Down there, tending the coral.
He runs to find him. Shouts…
Nemo: Daddy! In the colorful smoke of coral powder father peeps out.
Father: what happened Nemo?
Nemo: (shouting from a distance) what is the ocean daddy and what does it do?
Father: This! (raises his fins up) all around us. It is ocean and we live in it.
Nemo: I know, but….
Father kept his coral buffing wheel on top of the helping turtle.
Father: come, swim with me Nemo.

He looked into the direction of light and both swam off. After swimming for sometime father squinted his eyes and noticed something. Then jumped up in the air. He saw the land. He took Nemo closer to the edge of water and gently pushed him out on the sand. Soon Nemo started fluttering and getting breathless. Father kept looking at him and around him to make sure there was no danger. Now Nemo was screaming and father noticed that he could not breathe any longer. With a swish of his fin he brought Nemo back into the water.

Nemo: Huh. What was that for?
Father: do you now know what the ocean is and what it does for us?
With a question in his eyes breathless Nemo looks at father.
Father: It makes us live. Ocean is not an outside thing Nemo. It is in us and we are in it. Ocean and we are not separate things. We all jointly make the ocean. The turtle, the shark, the coral, the water together is ocean.

When we get out of Nemo’s life and enter into our own, what we see is nature that is made up of trees, mountains, rivers, lakes, air etc. We have been making a blunder by bracketing ourselves separately from all that we live in or live with. We are all in it together to flourish or there will be nothing. You know how the bracket looks with no value in it – (), a big zero. Take care.

7 April, 2007

Yours Religiously

Do you know how old is this earth? It is billions of years old. Homo sapiens did not exist at that point of time. We all came up from a single-cell life to this present state. Some say we evolved from fish, others think monkey is our ancestor. In one of the study by a renowned scientist, if all the time that the earth has been in existence should be condensed to 100 hours then the modern times would measure only a few minutes. By modern times we can say when spoken word developed and we started using intelligence to stay in groups to flourish and also avoid getting robbed or killed by other groups.

Along the lines many inventions kept coming, starting from rough stone tools for hunting, to the wheel, then clothing to save us from different acute weather conditions. We started keeping pets to serve us. Either to gives us milk, meat, or work for us in fields and later even to transport us around. But most surprising thing was the invention of the scare or fright that group leaders instilled among people in order for everyone to stay together; to fight the enemy jointly and keep the tribe safe and strong. The leaders must have been too intelligent to ask the rest of the community to pray to a certain tree, a stone or a certain person. I guess this was the beginning of politics and/or religion. And from that point onwards we have only been the victims of both these social orders. The benefits gained by this world from religion in general are no match to the harm received by its misuse. Currently we are going through the worst period of wars, mass killings, ethnic cleansing, Jehad, countries breaking up etc. Most of this is happening in the name of religion.

I seriously question the utility of religion as a concept for any benefit to human race what so ever. Any sensible businessman will just drop such a useless thing which draws out so much from you compared to what you gain from it. The balance sheet shows only losses. As it is being done today, religion is just too damn expensive to follow. Although religion is not a necessary condition for anyone to be a good and successful human being. People can do very well in all fields without the contribution of religion in their lives. People who are busy making money to look after their families may have no time for it. If a beggar starts praying in place of begging, without doubt, he will have to starve. Only the people who are well off or are misguide by others for some reasons known best to them; take the religion seriously and use it as business. And people who take religion too seriously may turn out to be rather dangerous for the world in general.

Sooner than later, constructive people will get to know the value and contribution of religion. And they are going to revolt against such a concept. The process may have already started. So I guess it is worth it trying to live without religion and check it out. We might have more time to meet friends, play with our children and cook nice dishes for them, finish a pending job at the office, most of all to ‘think’. We hardly allocate any time for us to think, which is such an important and constructive mental exercise.

Recently I read that the amount of happiness that science and technology have given to the world in the last 100 years is far more than happiness given to us by religion in 2000 years. We have been fighting wars for a God we have never seen but will give no importance to trees, air and rivers that directly enrich our life. So nature in fact is the God right in front of us!

Write first think later

Right now I am at a loss – of a subject or a topic to write on. I don’t know why I wonder why do we always need a subject to start hitting the keys on the keyboard.
“Stop thinking and start punching the keys. Punch the keys, for God’s sake!”, thundered Sean Connery (William Forrester) to Rob Brown (Jamal Wallace) in the movie ‘Finding Forrester’. Jamal wants to be a writer and has approached Forrester (a pulitzer winner in movie) to learn the art of writing from him. Jamal is in the same fix I am right now. The only difference is that I am real and my problem too is similar – real; while he was following a script given to him. Seeing my own plight I do agree with the scene. I admit I do like to write, but again I admit, it has been mostly on various mundane subjects, like terrorism, relationships, festivals, movies, events or reality like my own travels… I need to learn how to stop being ‘slave of subjects’ to write on and become independent to ‘just write’! If I can do that, then only perhaps I will be able to move to the next level.

In different context, if you are an adventurous type then I guess it is a good idea, to just get up and start walking; rather than fussing in wasting time planning your trip. If you just walk out you will end up reaching somewhere. Somewhere you had not imagined. And that somewhere which may even surprise you. That is if you are the kind who likes surprises. There are many who hate them, but not me. I absolutely love them. Not only surprises I love shocks and jolts too. I am not the kind who only likes pleasantness and calmness or ‘love and peace’ in life. I would love my life to be a full course meal; concoction of all the available tastes for my pallet. The tongue has to stay in touch with all kinds, sweet, salt, sour, even bitter and bland. And thankfully so far it (life) has been that way.

Another line that film script gave Forrester, “No thinking – that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”

Wow what a gem! And finally I acknowledged that this could be a way to deal with my kind of writer’s block. It is quite pathetic to feel blocked just because I have nothing to write on!

finding real ‘me’

i realized
i like talking to emptiness…
we have intelligent conversation
one to one
i can say what i want
in that emptiness no one challenges me
wrong me
criticize or correct me
expand on me
shorten me
no one can even appreciate me
like or love,
hate or insult me
that emptiness
just lets me be me
and that ‘me’ is real me

Sine Wave Life

This life

This life of mine

That is seen on my face

In my actions

Or flowing through my words

The life that I am knitting with my fingers

Manipulating with my thoughts

Sometimes life is a pointer of my ego

Soon it is as frail as my little finger

Sometime I force people on a path

Soon enough I am hopelessly helpless

Sine wave of mine

Is life of mine

My life is non-stop heart beats

Unceasing flow of blood

Relentless pumping of air

And forever alert brain

I cannot own everything

I can’t always be at my creative best

I can’t always be good

Or even good enough

My sky ends at the edge of my site

My possessions end with the length of my arms

Or strength of my hands

I am only safe till I can run

And beat the other in the game

But in life

The sky does not end at the end of my site

The world does not end at end of my arms

Mine does

My life ends with me

What’s Life about…

Life is not about happy ending

It’s not even about ending

Or, a beginning

In fact it is a cycle

Of endless beginnings and ends

Beginnings and ends are like

Stops or stations

Where one can

Take a breather or rest

Delay the next leg of the journey

Leave the regular tracks

And visit higher planes

Attain a finer form

By staying formless

Take a nirvana…

Then at some point of time

If you think you need to change the way the world is

Please sow the seeds of ‘work do be done’

In your soul and fine memory

And return to earth

With all that awareness and memory in your soul

Life, perhaps is about awareness

And about actions, performed with awareness

Theoretical Changes

If you think…

Things are not the way you think they should have been

Start afresh

Go back in the past

To find out where things might have gone awry

Find out that particular bad point

To make changes

And start afresh

Start right from there and see what can be changed and where

That is, to yield better results, later on, in life

Life, which you have already lived until today

Obviously it is a theoretical exercise

Not a science fiction, like “Back to the future”

Or “Forward to the past”

When you mentally note a point to make changes in the past

Its effect in the future of the past, must be calculated at every step

Accurately

One little change will change the next moment

Effect of that change will affect all approaching moments

Days, weeks, years

Status, relationships, friends, enemies

Just that one little theoretical change on paper…

Would make you entirely a different person

Someone completely unknown to you

Theoretically.

Science Fiction