Monthly Archives: September 2014

Abundance Principle

When I was at IIT, I got attracted towards ISKCON before I moved to vipassana for good.

I was having a discussion one day with someone in the ISKCON tradition when the topic shifted to population. He brought a very interesting point, which I still remember very well. He said population is not an issue, it never has been. The issue is nature not being happy. The issue of population used to be much more in the past, and nature supported it with sufficient resources.

I will not go into debate about how right he was, as I would like to divert attention to something else. And that is limited thinking. Whether it’s limited thinking or limited resources, it’s a bane. What is opposite of limited is abundance.

Abundance means that life is not a zero sum game. If you are having a good crop does not mean that someone else is having a bad crop. If you are enjoying wealth does not mean someone else is poor because of it. And if you are happy does not mean that someone else has to be unhappy for it.

Experience Driven Society

  • photo frame

In society, a lot of checks and balances have been put in place, apparently for good reasons. It is essentially to avoid the pain associated with bad experiences.

It worked well in smaller societies. In societies where there are multiple faiths and belief systems, experience is the best driver, in my opinion.

The beauty of experiential wisdom is that you cannot argue with it. So, while the cost may be high, the learning is lifelong.

Burning Bridges

  • Fire

It’s been almost a year since we moved into our mansion in Saratoga. During this time we have had three helpers who we thought we could have long-term engagements with. None of them lasted more than few weeks. All three can be stereotyped into a specific ethnicity and social class. But trust me, it goes far beyond ethnicity and class. The issue I am going to talk about is more ubiquitous than you think.

Let’s start with Joe (name is changed for obvious reasons). We bought our home on October 2, and were in an infinite loop of packing and procrastinating for a few days. On Saturday Oct. 12, Anjali bet me at 8:30 in the morning that I could not get a mover in half an hour. I called a few, and then at 8:40 a.m. I got a call that movers were already on their way to our home. I rushed to the ATM to get some cash and by 9:00 a.m. the packing and moving really started. There were some surprises in between, like the movers’ truck running out of battery energy, etc. But by 8:00 p.m. we were in our new home. And by 10:00 p.m. we could breathe. Well, the guy who had driven the moving truck was Joe. A well-mannered guy, but very poor in English skills.

We were impressed with his hard work. The next day some stuff was still left that needed to be moved into our new home, which was a townhouse. So Joe came along with his girlfriend. And the rest of our items was moved. But Anjali being as meticulous as she is about everything at home, realized that our piggy bank was missing. I did not think that was the case. She confronted him. He said he had no clue about it and I am sure he did not. The friend he hired to help, however, betrayed him, and Joe lost any future business from me.

Fast forward eight months: we wanted to get a lot of work done in our backyard. We found Rob (his real name changed here) on craigslist. He was very hardworking and did an awesome job. A few times over the course of his yard work he got his father and 16-year-old brother to help. Then a few days later we had our son’s birthday party. So Rob offered for his brother to help us. During the party, which was going on well, one of our friends gave a $100 gift card. A few hours later, Anjali being meticulous again, figured out that the gift card had disappeared. She wanted to confront Rob’s brother. I resisted at first, but then finally agreed. She confronted him, and he immediately denied knowing anything about the gift card. Then for some reason, Anjali asked him to take off his shoes. And lo and behold, there it was hidden in one of his socks. Subsequently Rob lost all future business with me, as well.

I could go on and on about experiences like this. For we have had similar episodes with employees in which they would burn bridges–especially important bridges–all for a short-term gain. At the same time there are employees who have been with my company for a long time and through thick and thin, and are reaping rewards and long-term gain.


Self-Inflicted Nature of Misery

  • Negativity and positivity

I was feeling low a few minutes back. This instantly got me pondering over whether misery is attaching itself to me or I am attaching myself to misery. Upon further introspection, I realized the latter was the case and as soon as I chose not to attach myself, it was almost gone.

Misery is called dukkha in Hindi/Sanskrit/Pali, and I wonder how much of it is fate and how much is choice. I wrote a blog post about traps some time back, and every now and then, I walk into traps created by circumstances. But no matter how bad the trap is, there remains a conscious choice to get out of it. Most of the time, however, the choice is a complex one. It can entail a directed acyclic graph (DAG) of choices.

So fate, being a very powerful force as it is, is still overrated.

Birthday Contemplation

The celebration of my birthday has gone through a lot of changes for me over the years.

It started with a small ritual at home called Jot when I was very young. It is a small ceremony in which you put a small clay lamp next to dry animal dung fuel, and put some ghee on the dung. When the dung catches fire, it’s considered auspicious and a manifestation of a demigod or a family deity.

Besides that, some special food would be made and offered to the Jot. That was all there was in this celebration of my birthday. No guests, no ceremony, no charade.

Slowly as school started and other kids celebrated their birthday, another ritual got added. It was taking candies for every kid in the home room and for all the teachers in the other rooms. These candies were actually meant as candies and not chocolates, since chocolates were a luxury that only the rich could afford during the 1980s in India.

Another thing about my birthday at school I vividly remember is that it was considered a free dress day. Though I don’t remember any official mention of “free dress day” being noted anywhere in the school diary. I think it’s a tradition which we all just assumed existed. And since no teacher objected to it, it carried on.

Slowly a few students in our class started throwing small parties in which they would call some friends for lunch. For some reason the birthday parties were never in the evening but only during the day. Evenings were exclusively reserved for lavish marriage parties and the sumptuous food associated with them. But coming back to birthday parties: there was always the expectation of a gift from the birthday boy, but it was an unspoken rule.

I remember once calling a neighbor’s kid the last minute for a birthday party. His mom asked why did I not inform her earlier. I had no answer and it was 20 seconds of silence from my side. She then rushed to a store and got a gift. I had no idea I had a choice to say “Don’t worry about the gift.” There were gift expectations at marriage parties, too. But there it was almost always a specific rupee denomination, which actually made it easier. In the case of a birthday party, however, there was extra work involved to go to the market and buy something useful and unique.

Moving forward to my IIT days, the birthday boy (yes, it was always a boy) would take everyone in the wing (and sometimes outside the school wing) out for dinner. As a birthday gift he would get bumps in the back (slightly below it actually). This may sound mean, but actually was fun as it was balanced out; and besides, every dog had his day eventually. 🙂

Now moving forward again, once in the U.S. my birthdays became more of an excuse to throw parties and get-togethers, which my wife and I both loved and still do. It almost came to a point where hypothetically if we did not show up for a party we hosted, our guests would simply interact with each other, have their own fun and then go back home. 🙂

However, let’s shift focus to something serious. It’s important to remember that one’s birthday is a reminder of a lot of things. Most important is that your stay on this planet has just been reduced by a whole year. It means you have to accelerate your march towards your personal goals, financials goals and spiritual goals (or non-goals, which is what our goals are in the spiritual realm). Last but not the least is giving back to society, which has provided favorable conditions to make you successful.

In summary, birthdays are a good reminder of the ephemeral nature of our existence and how every moment counts. And is precious.