Sunday, February 27, 2011

Learnings from the Turtle

A good friend recently bought a couple of turtles. So yesterday my friends and I went to see them. And yes, they were soooooo cute! :) It's amazing how two tiny turtles can bring anyone so much joy. We spent quite some time just observing them. Aah, the beauty of this cosmos with all its wondrous creation!

Looking back, my 'meeting' with the turtles triggered memories of an article I had read long back. I knew the article was from an issue of the Matruvani magazine which we subscribe to at home. Matruvani focuses on the teachings of my guru, Mother (Ammachi), known throughout the world as the Hugging Saint. Reading the monthly magazine would always put a smile on my face and relieve me of worry simply because it takes me closer to Mother. So the minute I reached my room, I began searching for the article amongst the few volumes I had brought from home. Coincidentally, I found the article! Written by one of the Swamis at the Amritapuri ashram, the article is about learning from the turtle. I'll share what I learnt from the article.

As I witnessed yesterday, a turtle never changes the direction of its movement. If you try lifting the turtle and set it in a different direction, it will always turn back to its original direction! We need to be like the turtle- Despite the presence of obstacles, never swerve from the original goal. Despite unfortunate circumstances, never change the course of your movement. The turtle may be slow, but it never loses sight of the goal. It reminds us that being slow is OK as long as you're making progress. You don't have to be caught in this mad, mad rush to be successful. Next, the turtle doesn't stay in its shell all the time. As the Korean proverb goes 'A turtle travels only when it sticks its neck out'. Meaning, we cannot be in our comfort zones all the time. We need to be willing to take risks, even if it means sticking our necks into unfamiliar waters. Who would have thought the turtle can teach us so much?!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Pair of Dangling Blue Earrings


This is for Amma, who shares my love for earrings.

It's so easy to get lost in a distant land
I just realized a little while ago
A little like getting stuck in quicksand
Like a boatman who doesn't know how to row.
No sense of direction, losing sight of the goal...
As reality strikes, the "adventure" seems to fade
A sense of blind fear and panic grips my soul...
But a pair of dangling blue earrings comes to my aid.

It was a vain desire, a childish whim
But I never thought I'd get that earring pair.
So my heart, with happiness began to brim
When Amma, far away, said, "Got something, with you, to share!"
Thanks to the blessing of the webcam, I could see
Her pulling out a pair of dangling blue earrings!
And then I saw her dreams for me
I saw faith, hope and confidence that love brings!

Amma, I will not allow any obstacle to come my way
Distracting me, causing me to sway,
I will strive hard to bring you honour and pride,
Those dangling blue earrings by my side...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Contemplation...

At times, I tend to contemplate on life. This usually happens when I am bored with work or simply in the mood for procrastination. It also occurs when I get disillusioned with material welfare. That does not mean that I have overcome my love for good things in life of course. At times, I just tend to think 'Is that all life is about?'. I know it sounds frivolous, but this is exactly when I think about the search for a meaning in life or about the nature of human existence. It reminded me of the question one tries to answer throughout one's existence- 'Who am I?' 'Tat tvam asi'- 'Thou are that', the ancient sages would say. Of course, realizing that is a different issue. And once the realization occurs, one is delivered from the merciless cycle of samsara.

I came across this beautiful song (Why the Sufis Whirl) by Kirtana, which seeks to explain how to attain the realization that each person on earth, including oneself, is not different from the creator. I still am not a 'realized' soul, of course (I guess there are miles to go before I 'sleep'), but the lyrics were truly inspiring in a profound way!

'I used to like to read the poems of Rumi
But I did not have a clue
What he meant when he said Beloved Friend
Until I met you
Now I know why the Sufis whirl:
It's awfully hard to rest
With all this love and fire inside my chest

I never understood that last supper
I did not know what to think
When Jesus said, "my body is this bread
And my blood this drink"
Had he merged with all of creation? -
Or found some fountain of youth
Now I see what I thought was alchemy
Is just the literal truth

And you don't need to be a Christian mystic
Or be born under a lucky star
You only need to be still and ask who you are,
Be still and know who you are

And to know the sound of one hand clapping
You don't need to read Lao Tsu
Just look around, look around, this is the sound
Do you hear it too?
One hand clapping, one heart singing
One Being being me and you
Only one unmoving ocean
Where many waves pass through

And you don't need to be a Zen Buddhist
To pierce the heart of this mystery
You only need to be willing to stop and see,
See what is still and free

You don't need to be a whirling dervish,
Or study scripture or travel far
You only need to be still and ask who you are
Be willing to know who you are...'



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Taming the 'Monkey Mind'


Well, today I finally lived up to my birthday resolution after a week! I beat the alarm and got up in time to watch the sunrise. Finally! But surprisingly, although I was elated that I woke early, I didn't get as much work done as I could have. The first thing I did was chant my mantra, which did help to attain some positive vibes, strengthening my faith in my Maker, and thereby faith in myself. But as I sat down to work, I found my mind drifting away. After an hour, I contemplated sleeping for 15 minutes, debated logging onto Facebook, resisted the temptation to read my blog list and in the end did all three.

No wonder someone erudite once compared the mind to a drunken monkey- jumping from one branch to another, trying to find some balance somewhere. And I am still finding out how to tame this drunken monkey mind. :| Focus, I guess is the only way out. sigh. Okay, back to work now...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Birthday Resolutions

So, I just turned nineteen yesterday. And I celebrated my birthday (technically not a birthday; as my bestie Sunaina puts it, more like a 'birth anniversary') away from home. Anyway, unlike last year, where I really felt homesick, this time I actually had fun. :D

I went out shopping and took a break from the monotonous study(?) schedule at NUS. The fact that my birthday fell on the first day of the Chinese New Year seemed to make it extra special for me. So, I ushered in the Year of the Rabbit, warmed by the fact that my friends and family remembered me and prayed for me, as I grew older and hopefully wiser. Speaking of becoming wiser, I decided to take on a few birthday resolutions after a few rounds of contemplation on how I could improve myself.

Resolution #1
Wake up early! This is something I have been striving to achieve throughout my stint at NUS, but I find myself looking at the clock in exasperation every morning, having slept through the alarm yet again. I figured that this happens because I always sleep late, and not necessarily because I was 'working hard'. So I guess the way out will be to sleep early and wake up in time to see the sunrise!

Resolution #2
Spend more time in prayer. I find it odd that prayer, having been deeply etched into my daily schedule from my childhood, has slowly been fading away. I do think of my Maker often, I do try to chant my mantra whenever possible. It's just that I don't have a fixed time to do it which makes it more difficult for me to take the time off to pray. As I remember the sense of satisfaction and inner calm I derived from prayer rituals back home, I am all the more convinced that I really need to spend more time conversing with the Creator. The milkman Tevye, in 'Fiddler on the Roof', compares a person's quest to earn a livelihood with that of a fiddler on the roof- 'trying to scratch out a simple pleasant tune, without breaking his neck!'. According to Tevye, the only way to maintain one's balance is by following tradition. He declares, 'Without tradition, our lives would be as shaky as a Fiddler on the Roof'. For me, without prayer my life would be just as shaky. Ever since I can remember, my day always started with these words:'Karaagre Vasate Lakshmi, Karamuule Saraswati. Karamadhye Tu Govinda,Prabhaate Kara Darshanam.' The Sanskrit prayer invokes the blessings of the Goddesses of Wealth and Knowledge for yet another day. Lately, the prayer has been replaced by, 'What? I missed the alarm again!!!!!' So, it brings me back to resolution #1.

Resolution #3
Shy away from shyness. I do not consider myself to be an introvert, but at the same time, I take my time trying to get to know people. Sometimes, I feel I should speak more; assert my views more, voice out questions whenever there is a need to do so. I guess it's just a fear that others might perceive me to be stupid or dumb that prevents me from talking. There have been numerous occasions when things would have gone way better, if I had just spoken out. So, lesson hopefully learnt; this year I'll seize the initiative to talk!

Resolution #4
Worry less.
Hmm, worry- it's been a constant companion for me. I find that I so often lose track of precious time just worrying. Worried about the future. Worried about the past. Worried about why someone ceased speaking to me. Worried about grades. Worried about a job. Worried about how I will secure enough CCA points for an on campus accommodation next semester... and the list never ends. So I decided to put a full stop to worry this year. Okay, people who know me well will say that this is technically not possible, because worry is almost like a shadow for me. But it's worth a try!

That sums up my list of birthday resolutions. Let's see if I can stick to them. Here's to a happier, brighter, more hopeful year ahead! :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Search

Last night, I was walking back to the hostel after dinner with my friends. I was extremely bored, despite the mountain of work piled up. (or maybe because of it?) Anyway, I decided to observe my surroundings as I walked. I saw a couple of eager dog walkers with their oh-so-cute Labradors. Once again, I vowed to myself that the first thing I'll do when I land a job will be to get myself a dog. And then I saw a poster in front of a Bible Society. It was a verse from Mark 8:36- 'For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?'

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about that one. And that left me pondering about what is the meaning of life. Getting a good job, and doing materially well is definitely like gaining the whole world. But in this mad race to outdo others, I wonder have we already forfeited our souls? And how can we redeem ourselves from this plight? Sure, turning to spirituality is a good way out. But how can we ensure that our lives have meaning? After all, as Robin Sharma puts it, 'Who will cry when you die?' I am weary of the rat race, but I have to continue to fight since that is the only way I can achieve worldly success which is equally important. At the same time, I really want to be remembered for something worthwhile. And so my search for meaning continues, again...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Learnings from the Turtle

A good friend recently bought a couple of turtles. So yesterday my friends and I went to see them. And yes, they were soooooo cute! :) It's amazing how two tiny turtles can bring anyone so much joy. We spent quite some time just observing them. Aah, the beauty of this cosmos with all its wondrous creation!

Looking back, my 'meeting' with the turtles triggered memories of an article I had read long back. I knew the article was from an issue of the Matruvani magazine which we subscribe to at home. Matruvani focuses on the teachings of my guru, Mother (Ammachi), known throughout the world as the Hugging Saint. Reading the monthly magazine would always put a smile on my face and relieve me of worry simply because it takes me closer to Mother. So the minute I reached my room, I began searching for the article amongst the few volumes I had brought from home. Coincidentally, I found the article! Written by one of the Swamis at the Amritapuri ashram, the article is about learning from the turtle. I'll share what I learnt from the article.

As I witnessed yesterday, a turtle never changes the direction of its movement. If you try lifting the turtle and set it in a different direction, it will always turn back to its original direction! We need to be like the turtle- Despite the presence of obstacles, never swerve from the original goal. Despite unfortunate circumstances, never change the course of your movement. The turtle may be slow, but it never loses sight of the goal. It reminds us that being slow is OK as long as you're making progress. You don't have to be caught in this mad, mad rush to be successful. Next, the turtle doesn't stay in its shell all the time. As the Korean proverb goes 'A turtle travels only when it sticks its neck out'. Meaning, we cannot be in our comfort zones all the time. We need to be willing to take risks, even if it means sticking our necks into unfamiliar waters. Who would have thought the turtle can teach us so much?!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Pair of Dangling Blue Earrings


This is for Amma, who shares my love for earrings.

It's so easy to get lost in a distant land
I just realized a little while ago
A little like getting stuck in quicksand
Like a boatman who doesn't know how to row.
No sense of direction, losing sight of the goal...
As reality strikes, the "adventure" seems to fade
A sense of blind fear and panic grips my soul...
But a pair of dangling blue earrings comes to my aid.

It was a vain desire, a childish whim
But I never thought I'd get that earring pair.
So my heart, with happiness began to brim
When Amma, far away, said, "Got something, with you, to share!"
Thanks to the blessing of the webcam, I could see
Her pulling out a pair of dangling blue earrings!
And then I saw her dreams for me
I saw faith, hope and confidence that love brings!

Amma, I will not allow any obstacle to come my way
Distracting me, causing me to sway,
I will strive hard to bring you honour and pride,
Those dangling blue earrings by my side...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Contemplation...

At times, I tend to contemplate on life. This usually happens when I am bored with work or simply in the mood for procrastination. It also occurs when I get disillusioned with material welfare. That does not mean that I have overcome my love for good things in life of course. At times, I just tend to think 'Is that all life is about?'. I know it sounds frivolous, but this is exactly when I think about the search for a meaning in life or about the nature of human existence. It reminded me of the question one tries to answer throughout one's existence- 'Who am I?' 'Tat tvam asi'- 'Thou are that', the ancient sages would say. Of course, realizing that is a different issue. And once the realization occurs, one is delivered from the merciless cycle of samsara.

I came across this beautiful song (Why the Sufis Whirl) by Kirtana, which seeks to explain how to attain the realization that each person on earth, including oneself, is not different from the creator. I still am not a 'realized' soul, of course (I guess there are miles to go before I 'sleep'), but the lyrics were truly inspiring in a profound way!

'I used to like to read the poems of Rumi
But I did not have a clue
What he meant when he said Beloved Friend
Until I met you
Now I know why the Sufis whirl:
It's awfully hard to rest
With all this love and fire inside my chest

I never understood that last supper
I did not know what to think
When Jesus said, "my body is this bread
And my blood this drink"
Had he merged with all of creation? -
Or found some fountain of youth
Now I see what I thought was alchemy
Is just the literal truth

And you don't need to be a Christian mystic
Or be born under a lucky star
You only need to be still and ask who you are,
Be still and know who you are

And to know the sound of one hand clapping
You don't need to read Lao Tsu
Just look around, look around, this is the sound
Do you hear it too?
One hand clapping, one heart singing
One Being being me and you
Only one unmoving ocean
Where many waves pass through

And you don't need to be a Zen Buddhist
To pierce the heart of this mystery
You only need to be willing to stop and see,
See what is still and free

You don't need to be a whirling dervish,
Or study scripture or travel far
You only need to be still and ask who you are
Be willing to know who you are...'



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Taming the 'Monkey Mind'


Well, today I finally lived up to my birthday resolution after a week! I beat the alarm and got up in time to watch the sunrise. Finally! But surprisingly, although I was elated that I woke early, I didn't get as much work done as I could have. The first thing I did was chant my mantra, which did help to attain some positive vibes, strengthening my faith in my Maker, and thereby faith in myself. But as I sat down to work, I found my mind drifting away. After an hour, I contemplated sleeping for 15 minutes, debated logging onto Facebook, resisted the temptation to read my blog list and in the end did all three.

No wonder someone erudite once compared the mind to a drunken monkey- jumping from one branch to another, trying to find some balance somewhere. And I am still finding out how to tame this drunken monkey mind. :| Focus, I guess is the only way out. sigh. Okay, back to work now...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Birthday Resolutions

So, I just turned nineteen yesterday. And I celebrated my birthday (technically not a birthday; as my bestie Sunaina puts it, more like a 'birth anniversary') away from home. Anyway, unlike last year, where I really felt homesick, this time I actually had fun. :D

I went out shopping and took a break from the monotonous study(?) schedule at NUS. The fact that my birthday fell on the first day of the Chinese New Year seemed to make it extra special for me. So, I ushered in the Year of the Rabbit, warmed by the fact that my friends and family remembered me and prayed for me, as I grew older and hopefully wiser. Speaking of becoming wiser, I decided to take on a few birthday resolutions after a few rounds of contemplation on how I could improve myself.

Resolution #1
Wake up early! This is something I have been striving to achieve throughout my stint at NUS, but I find myself looking at the clock in exasperation every morning, having slept through the alarm yet again. I figured that this happens because I always sleep late, and not necessarily because I was 'working hard'. So I guess the way out will be to sleep early and wake up in time to see the sunrise!

Resolution #2
Spend more time in prayer. I find it odd that prayer, having been deeply etched into my daily schedule from my childhood, has slowly been fading away. I do think of my Maker often, I do try to chant my mantra whenever possible. It's just that I don't have a fixed time to do it which makes it more difficult for me to take the time off to pray. As I remember the sense of satisfaction and inner calm I derived from prayer rituals back home, I am all the more convinced that I really need to spend more time conversing with the Creator. The milkman Tevye, in 'Fiddler on the Roof', compares a person's quest to earn a livelihood with that of a fiddler on the roof- 'trying to scratch out a simple pleasant tune, without breaking his neck!'. According to Tevye, the only way to maintain one's balance is by following tradition. He declares, 'Without tradition, our lives would be as shaky as a Fiddler on the Roof'. For me, without prayer my life would be just as shaky. Ever since I can remember, my day always started with these words:'Karaagre Vasate Lakshmi, Karamuule Saraswati. Karamadhye Tu Govinda,Prabhaate Kara Darshanam.' The Sanskrit prayer invokes the blessings of the Goddesses of Wealth and Knowledge for yet another day. Lately, the prayer has been replaced by, 'What? I missed the alarm again!!!!!' So, it brings me back to resolution #1.

Resolution #3
Shy away from shyness. I do not consider myself to be an introvert, but at the same time, I take my time trying to get to know people. Sometimes, I feel I should speak more; assert my views more, voice out questions whenever there is a need to do so. I guess it's just a fear that others might perceive me to be stupid or dumb that prevents me from talking. There have been numerous occasions when things would have gone way better, if I had just spoken out. So, lesson hopefully learnt; this year I'll seize the initiative to talk!

Resolution #4
Worry less.
Hmm, worry- it's been a constant companion for me. I find that I so often lose track of precious time just worrying. Worried about the future. Worried about the past. Worried about why someone ceased speaking to me. Worried about grades. Worried about a job. Worried about how I will secure enough CCA points for an on campus accommodation next semester... and the list never ends. So I decided to put a full stop to worry this year. Okay, people who know me well will say that this is technically not possible, because worry is almost like a shadow for me. But it's worth a try!

That sums up my list of birthday resolutions. Let's see if I can stick to them. Here's to a happier, brighter, more hopeful year ahead! :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Search

Last night, I was walking back to the hostel after dinner with my friends. I was extremely bored, despite the mountain of work piled up. (or maybe because of it?) Anyway, I decided to observe my surroundings as I walked. I saw a couple of eager dog walkers with their oh-so-cute Labradors. Once again, I vowed to myself that the first thing I'll do when I land a job will be to get myself a dog. And then I saw a poster in front of a Bible Society. It was a verse from Mark 8:36- 'For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?'

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about that one. And that left me pondering about what is the meaning of life. Getting a good job, and doing materially well is definitely like gaining the whole world. But in this mad race to outdo others, I wonder have we already forfeited our souls? And how can we redeem ourselves from this plight? Sure, turning to spirituality is a good way out. But how can we ensure that our lives have meaning? After all, as Robin Sharma puts it, 'Who will cry when you die?' I am weary of the rat race, but I have to continue to fight since that is the only way I can achieve worldly success which is equally important. At the same time, I really want to be remembered for something worthwhile. And so my search for meaning continues, again...