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How to deal with criticism?

Once you are active in the world, people will throw all kinds of things at you. What life throws at you is determined by so many forces, but what you make out of it is one hundred percent up to you. Human beings have risen above the most impossible situations. Think of someone like Nelson Mandela. What he had been put through would have broken most people. From that, he came out as a gentle power, a kind of power that arises from not being identified with anything.

Even high-ranking law enforcement officers have told me, “To all great beings, this has happened. You know what Rama and Krishna went through. You will anyway go beyond that.” I said, “I didn’t talk to the law enforcement to tell me about what Rama, Krishna, or Jesus went through. Do you want that to be the precedent?” Unfortunately, well-intentioned people are wrapped up in their philosophies. Ill-intentioned people are action-oriented. This is what we need to change in the country – well-intentioned people must become action-oriented. Ill-intentioned people, we must wrap them up in their own negativity.

If we want the nation to move forward, all of us must do what works. There is too much activism, too little activity in this country. As a hangover from the pre-independence era, we are still honoring people who stop the nation from functioning. Non-cooperation may have been an appropriate way during the freedom struggle against our occupiers. But what sense does it make to lock down our own nation today? Bringing a nation to a halt is one kind of talent. Making a nation happen is a different kind of talent. If at any time, someone organized disruption in this country, there should be no chance for them to become a leader. These are elements who invest in other people’s problems. This must go. There is work to be done in the country.

If we can get people who hold key positions to change their mindsets, many things will change in the country. This includes bureaucratic leaders, business leaders, social leaders, and leaders in other areas. We have already touched about half of these people. They are making a quiet change, wherever they are. India has changed a lot in the last twelve years. This evolution happens quietly. If individuals make a fundamental change in the way they perceive, understand, and experience life, society will change. Let’s say you are interacting with a minimum of ten people every day. Whenever you meet someone, you can either leave a positive impact on them or a negative one, or you can just let them pass by.

Every time you have someone in front of you, you must see how to positively impact them. If you can make them smile a little more, you made a positive impact. This is the least you can do. Whether you know the person or not, whether it is a stranger or someone from an enemy country, can you genuinely smile at them? I’m not talking about forcing a smile. If you keep smiling every day without joy in your heart, it will kill you. If there is joy in your heart, you will naturally have a smile on your face. If you think what you are doing is important, the first thing is to work upon yourself. Why don’t you take stock of your life every month? Have you been a little better human being this month than you were last month? Have you become a little more joyful?

Criticism will anyway come. If you listen to praise, if you enjoy accolades, inevitably you will suffer criticism. If you want to have deep insights into life, no one’s opinion about you should mean anything to you. About work and activity, you can listen to other people’s opinions. About who you are and what you are committed to, you should not attach value to anyone’s opinion. To get to this place takes a certain amount of inner work. Most people are a product of other people’s opinions. If people keep telling you how good and wonderful you are, you will be floating on cloud nine. If people tell you otherwise, you will crash – cloud-burst.

Living in society, you cannot shake off criticism just like that. Becoming insensitive is not the answer – it is only avoidance. If you want a true answer, you need to work upon yourself. An inner dimension has to evolve that does not depend upon what is happening around you. If who you are is clearly established within yourself, then it won’t matter what people say. Some people say you are great, some people say you are horrible; some people say what you are doing is fantastic, some people say it’s no good – it’s okay. I don’t have time to look in the rearview mirror – my eyes are always on the road. In the rearview mirror, someone may be gesticulating angrily, someone may be praising you – it doesn’t matter.

This is not the time to enjoy successes or suffer failures. This is the time to put everything we have into creating the best possible results. That’s all human life is about – to strive for what truly matters. What happens or doesn’t happen is subject to various factors. But if you do not strive for what you truly care for, it is a wasted life. Before the drama starts, it is already a tragedy. So many issues arise just because people are not doing what they care for. If you are striving to create what you really care for, neither praise nor criticism will matter. If you can deal with situations without being affected by them, if the situations don’t decide who you are but you decide how the situations should be – that’s what I call success. That’s what I think you should strive for in life.

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Confusion is better than hasty conclusions

When I watch people in public places, it always amazes me to see how everyone is walking around, seemingly dead sure about everything. This reminds me of an incident that happened on my last flight to Delhi on the way back from the United States. From San Francisco to Europe, there were some hydraulic issues with the airplane, and it took off an hour and a half late. The last two nights before flying out, I had barely slept. After I had gone through all the news magazines and stuff, I decided to sleep. As someone who appreciates machines, and even more as an aviator, I am always sensitive to the sound of engines. I was fast asleep. Then suddenly, I felt the usual roar of the engine was not there. I sat up. The engine on the other side was roaring; on my side, it was silent. I opened the window and looked – the engine was spinning like a turbo fan.

I immediately called the hostess. She came, and I said, “The engine is out – why didn’t you tell us?” She said, “Ahh, I’ll call the captain,” and she went away. Then the captain came, and in a thick German accent, he said, “Ahh, Mr. Vasudaav, no problem.” I asked again, “The engine is out – why didn’t you tell us?” “No-no, no problem. We will have a safe landing. We are just a little slow, that’s all.” I said, “At what speed are we travelling?” “Oh, we are just doing about two hundred twenty knots.” This aircraft is supposed to do nearly five hundred knots.

I asked, “How late will we be?” He said, “Maybe about four hours, but no problem.” I said, “‘No problem’ – all right.” I took off my blazer and wore a t-shirt, just in case I had to swim in the Atlantic. I had not eaten anything. I asked the hostess to bring all the chocolates she had and ate up everything. I reckoned that if the plane touches down, I have enough rest, the right kind of clothing, enough energy, some chance, and I went to sleep. I thought the airplane might yaw into the airport. But about a little over four hours later, the pilot made a perfect landing. I thought that’s skillful.

Most people on an aircraft are not really aware that they are forty thousand feet above the ground in a tin can. When they think about the airplane, it is in terms of “It didn’t take off yet; it didn’t land yet. It’s five minutes late. My phone is not working.” They don’t really know a bloody tin can is flying in the sky with three hundred people. If out of thousands of things that are there in the aircraft, one small thing doesn’t work, all these three hundred people could evaporate, including yourself. Every time you get on an airplane, you should know that. Something should tingle within you, and you should enjoy it.

Once, when I got onto a small plane somewhere in India, someone told me, “It’s monsoon time, Sadhguru. There is going to be a lot of turbulence. You must wear the seatbelt.” I said, “Don’t worry – I enjoy the turbulence.” “Hehehe,” he laughed. I said, “Why are you laughing?” He said, “I also enjoy it.” You living without being conscious of what you are getting into gives you a certain bliss. Ignorance is bliss. But the best thing about life is to know all those things and to still do it. There is a different kind of joy to it.

People are trying to create a false sense of certainty in their lives by telling themselves or each other fanciful stories. You can call them what we want – sometimes scriptures, sometimes religion, sometimes a love affair. You are telling each other fanciful stories to somehow get through life. But when life knocks you on your head, suddenly these things fall apart, and you are confused and fearful. Fear, because you have come down to reality. It’s a blessing to come down to reality. If you have been going the wrong way and suddenly you realize you are confused, it is a good thing.

Let’s say you are walking in the jungle, and you know the way. But then you realize you don’t really know where you are going. You don’t know which is east, west, north, or south. When you are confused, the first thing is to stop and look. Pay attention to every little detail. Maybe somewhere, there is an indication which way to go. See how the sunlight is falling, or, if it is night, read the stars; look for a landmark, or at least watch which way the elephant dung goes. It may not take you to a city but at least to the water. If you are confused, don’t get into a tizzy and run all over the place.

The whole world is going through struggle and confusion, but how many will take a step in the right direction? Confusion is better than idiotic conclusions. Be glad that at least you are confused, rather than being a fanatic who is sure that he or she will go to heaven. When you are confused, you are fearful because you realize you were living with a foolish certainty, without knowing. When you suddenly realize you don’t know a thing about life, fear arises. You not knowing anything about life is not a new phenomenon. It is just that your silly conclusions collapsed for some reason – either life did it to you, or maybe I did.

If instead of going all the way wrong, halfway down your life you get confused, is it not a good thing? Otherwise, you will look bewildered when you are dying – that’s a bad way to die. Unfortunately, eighty percent of the people die looking bewildered. They never realized this was going to happen to them. The sooner you get confused, the better. Confusion means none of your conclusions are holding up. When you are thoroughly confused, all your faculties will be sharpened – you will see and hear much better.

It is like you are walking in the jungle with headphones on. Even if a tiger roared, you did not know it. Suddenly you realize you don’t know where you are going. You pulled off the headphones. Now you are thoroughly confused and a little fearful. Once you get used to the confusion, you will see it’s a good thing. And you will also see you are not alone. Most people have to go through this process of confusion and struggle in life, unfortunately. Isn’t there some other way? There is. Otherwise, why would I be here? But, after three lifetimes, I have become wise. This is my final round. The possibility is open, but I don’t believe everyone will jump by themselves. Something has to push them.

If you have realized that you are confused, don’t make further investments in the wrong direction. Stop, wait, look. Try to figure it out. When you are confused, your intelligence is alert and active and constantly looking. That’s how you should be. You just have to learn to do it joyfully. Clarity is a consequence of handling your confusion consciously.

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Knowledge or Ignorance, which is a bliss?

What you call knowledge is a certain accumulated information. Whether you want to cook your meal, manufacture a car, produce a great computer or build a building, this accumulated knowledge is important.

What you call as a cook book or an engineering book or a medical book is simply accumulated knowledge. If you do not make use of the accumulated knowledge, then you will have to reinvent the wheel every day. Only a fool will invent things which have been invented a thousand years ago. A wise man will use what has been invented in the past and produce something else for tomorrow.

One day a young student from a university went to a football match with a bottle of soda and popcorn in his hand. An old man was sitting there. He went and settled down next to the man, looked at him and said, “You old people, your generation, I don’t know how you lived. You guys really knew nothing. See, our generation, we have grown up with computers. We have nano-technology. We have spacecraft. Today we can communicate at lightning speed to anywhere in the world. You guys really lived a primitive life. So definitely you people cannot understand our ultra-modern generation of people. You are primitive because you did not have any of these things when you were growing up.” The old man heard all this and, particularly loudly so that everyone hears, he said, “Yes, my son, when we were growing up we did not have all these things. So we invented them. Now, young shit head, what are you doing for the next generation?”

What has been known and invented long ago, you accumulate that knowledge so that you do not have to reinvent the wheel every day. You do not have to end up like a fool who is doing the same things over and over again. So, is knowledge useful or not useful? You decide.

When I say knowledge about life, we are talking about this life which is you. You cannot accumulate knowledge about this life because, from accumulated knowledge, if you come to a conclusion about life it will become prejudiced knowledge. It will not allow you to experience anything.

Once you have knowledge about something, you cannot experience it fresh. It is already a prejudiced conclusion. When it comes to doing something physical or material, you need knowledge, but to conduct life you do not need knowledge you need clarity.

So when we talked about dropping the knowledge, we were talking about life, not about various disciplines of life. To do medicine, to do engineering, to do music, to do this and that, you need knowledge because you have to make use of the past experience of life not just of yours, but of a million other people or a million generations which have lived on the planet. If you do not use that, then everything has to be lived fresh, everything has to be taken fresh. At the same time, if you allow this knowledge to encroach upon your clarity of perception, then you will not see anything the way it is. The old knowledge will constantly superimpose itself. Nothing new will ever happen to you.

To have knowledge and not be identified with it, not allow it to encroach upon your clarity of vision, is very vital. To see things the way they are right now, you must be free of knowledge. To know what was in the past you need knowledge. So knowledge is in your memory. If there is clarity; a clear distinction between what is your memory and what is the scalpel of your intellect, then there is no problem. If your memory is sticking all over your intellect, then this knife will lose its sharpness, and it cannot cut through anything. It is in that context that I said knowledge has to be dropped.

Intellect is like a knife: the sharper it is, the more easily it cuts through anything. If a lot of things are sticking to it, would it be sharp? Can it cut through anything? So if you know how to keep the past in the past and be aware of what is there right now, then knowledge is not a problem. But if you have no clarity, you only exist because of what you have accumulated in the past, you become an accumulation. Then knowledge is a burden.

When it comes to living life right now, you cannot have knowledge about it because it is life. You have to perceive it; you have to know it now. Buddha knew it, Krishna knew it, someone else knew it what they knew does not matter. You cannot experience it through him. You can use his experience, but you cannot use his perception. You have to perceive. There is no other way. In this context do not burden yourself with knowledge.

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How to handle yourself when someone lets you down?

The problem is wrong assumptions. You are making assumptions about others, about yourself, and about creation. You got a little too romantic and thought the relationship happens by itself. Relationships need to be managed. The question is, are you a good manager or not? Still, however good a manager you are, things can happen. About someone letting you down…You may have unrealistic expectations about people. I know the question is coming from a certain experience, and I am not trying to belittle the pain. I know what it means to you as an individual. But at the same time, you need to understand that you came alone into this world, and you will go alone. You entered the relationship because you needed it.

No matter how much drama you create around it and what assumptions you make about the relationship, it is about trying to fulfill your needs. Whatever relationships you have formed in your life, you have done so to fulfill your needs, be they physical, psychological, emotional, financial, social, or whatever else. If you keep that in mind, you will approach your relationships with a certain humility. If you get carried away by your own thoughts and emotions, you forget about the fundamentals of the relationship, and you forget to manage it well. That is when things can go wrong.

If you are disillusioned with something or someone, it means you come to reality. This may sound cruel, but this is how life is. All people that we hold dear will go, or we will go. Even if you hold hands and die together, you will still go separately. These are your emotions. When you form a relationship with someone, it is an agreement between the two of you to help each other experience some sweetness of emotion.

As you mature, you need to learn to keep your thoughts and emotions sweet by your own nature. If your thoughts and emotions are pleasant, you can share them with other people. But if, without the other person, your thoughts and emotions get bitter and unpleasant, if someone has to offer life support every day, they will get tired. If others constantly have to keep you happy and loving, it is a burden on them, and they may run away at some point. When they escape, you think it is betrayal. Again, these are all your emotions. In the larger context of existence, you are just a piece of life.

You are making deals and relationships with people for various purposes. This not only applies to the relationship between husband and wife, but also relationships with business partners, friends, children, parents, and so on. Always remember you have entered the relationship to fulfill your needs. They may have entered the relationship for their needs, but that is not your business. Your business is to understand that they are valuable to your life.

They are adding value to who you are. When you are aware of that, you will manage the relationship in one way. If you think you are of great value to someone, you will manage the relationship in another way, which may not allow it to last long. Or you may be doing all the right things and still it may go wrong. Whichever way it is, it is your business to make yourself into a pleasant and wonderful piece of life. With or without someone, please make it happen.

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Disability shouldn’t take away your dignity

Today, we do not refer to people as “handicapped.” We are beginning to call them special children or special people. He is special, which is why you have to attend to him a little more than you attend to others, and it is an opportunity for you to put your humanity into practice and understand that life needs to be handled with sensitivity. That sort of sensitivity has to come naturally to people, rather than looking for some mystical or divine solution.

Diseases, injuries and birth defects—all these are realities of life. It is true we would like to see that everyone has legs, but if it happens that somebody does not, it need not become a great misery for him. People can support him to see that his life is not that difficult. Rather than a personal problem, it is more of a social problem which has to be addressed.

Different people have different capabilities. Not all of us can run 100 meters in 9 seconds. Does that mean we are physically handicapped? Compared to that man who can do so, we are, isn’t it? So, “handicap” is a very relative term. Physical and mental activity are always on different scales for people. But the one thing that society can do is to  as far as possible  create equal opportunities. You cannot make people equal. That would be cruel. If one person does not have a leg, will you cut everybody’s leg? Is that equality? Equality is a foolish idea. But equal opportunity is something that has to happen in every society.

There was a time when so many people would contract polio. Now governments, institutions and people who are aware of public health are taking great efforts to see that every child gets a polio vaccine. But if someone does get polio, the society has to give him the necessary opportunity to live a fulfilled life. Whether it is about getting into public transport or accessing public places, many countries still have not taken enough measures to see that a person who has a little disability can manage in this society. It is almost like everything that we have created is a hurdle for him.

I want you to understand that even people who are not physically disabled in some way are laughed at because of certain inabilities. Not all of us can do everything the same way. Suppose you can sing very well but if you ask me to sing, I’ll do it horribly and you might laugh at me. Society is mentally handicapped. Even if you are born with a funny nose, people will make fun of you. There will always be somebody who thinks they are better than you at something. You should see how to make the best of who you are rather than seeing what someone else is thinking about or laughing at. You can do something else with yourself and become a much bigger source of joy for yourself.

There is a science that deals with how you want to be within yourself, how to be at peace with your body, mind, and emotions no matter what people are saying. That is what we refer to as “yoga.” It is a technique that lets you maintain your identity. “You” are not an issue anymore; the issues are all outside. Outside issues can be handled only to the best of our ability, considering the realities in which we exist. But if you are an issue by yourself, you will not even do what you are capable of doing on the outside. If a human being does not do what he is not capable of, it is fine, but if he does not do what he can do, his life is a tragedy. That should not happen.

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The importance of having right friends

Do not underestimate the influence of the company that you keep. Even if you do not drink or do drugs, being in the company of people who do impacts you on a completely different level. Most human beings are – knowingly or unknowingly – shaped by the company that they keep. They may not realize to what extent. It is not only your family and friends who have an impact on you, but your social exposure in general. I would say your social exposure has shaped almost ninety percent of your personality. Choosing your company is not about being discriminatory, but about being discretionary as to where you want to be and with whom you want to be. It is definitely not ideal to be among people who are so compulsive in nature that you can consider them addicts, no matter what they are addicted to.

Your whole effort is to move from compulsiveness to consciousness. Being among people who are very compulsive is not supportive. You have not yet reached a place where you can be among the most compulsive people and still be absolutely conscious and unaffected on the level of your system. You may or may not get addicted yourself. I hope you will not, but it definitely influences you in many ways. If external influences did not have an impact, why would anyone make the effort of building an ashram? It is one big headache to maintain a spiritual place which is like an oasis in a churning ocean. To keep it like an island that remains untouched by what is happening around takes a lot.

Sometime visit any spiritual community center, so many people visit such place especially in nation like India. To welcome them, to let them be part of it, and not to become them is a great challenge. Such centers need solid people. Otherwise, everyone tries to bring a bit of their home, their street, their town and make it a part of the ashram. People try to introduce their whims and fancies, their likes and dislikes. Almost everyone who comes tries to exert some influence upon the ashram. Some ask about doing or having things in a certain way – others just do it. To politely or sometimes forcefully refuse their influence is not easy. The idea of an ashram is to maintain a space that is dedicated towards a purpose.

Wherever you live, you need to maintain your space in such a way that it is dedicated to the purpose for which you are living. Your private space should reflect where you want to go, rather than someone else’s compulsive ways of living. This is very important; until you come to a place where, even if you go to hell, you will come out untouched. Right now, you tend to get carried away. Do not overestimate yourself.

Creating the right kind of space – and if necessary moving away from negative influences – is very important for your growth. This is not only about avoiding people with a drug addiction, but with any kind of excessive compulsiveness. People are dedicated to their compulsiveness. If you look at the way many so-called normal families live – “normal” in the sense that the children are not drug addicts, the husband is not an alcoholic, and the wife is not a shopaholic – the way they exist is so anti-consciousness. If you can transform them, that is great. If you cannot transform them, the best thing is to step away. For almost all human beings, the kind of company they keep shapes their lives. To what extent may vary from person to person, but it definitely determines a lot of things.

Let’s assume you are a successful personality today. Maybe right now, what kind of company you keep does not make any difference to you. But the company you kept in earlier times definitely determined who you are today. If you had kept the wrong kind of company then, things would surely be very different for you now. What was relevant for you then is relevant for you now. It is very important for your growth that you either cultivate the right kind of company or make choices not to be in the wrong company.

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Children needs only indirect aid and no direct advice

If you look at the education a child goes through, you spend a certain number of years to learn the alphabet. To learn to write and read sentences, you spend a certain number of years. To learn a certain amount of mathematics, you invest some years. Why is it that there is no time given to learn the ways of how you function from within? It is because we have set a priority in society that it is not important. I am saying this with utmost pain – I was told that over 3000 children attempt suicide in the United States every day. In India, over 10,000 children commit suicide every year. How can we ignore this aspect of life? Have we lost our sense?

You cannot correct this just by working with the children. A child needs an ecosystem. This is where we have missed out in the things we are doing in the world today. Recently, someone sent me a gift – a spray which is supposed to be a good bacteria spray. I am supposed to spray it on myself. They told me that if you spray the bacteria, your skin will be healthy, if you spray it on your head, your hair will be healthy! Why do I need bacteria? I did not grow up in a laboratory. I grew up on this planet which is full of bacteria. What I am saying is, your life does not happen in exclusivity. This life happens in inclusivity. The ecological disaster that is happening on the planet is happening because we thought we could eliminate everything and we would live well. It does not work like that. It needs an ecosystem.

The same goes for your child. A child needs an ecosystem. What kind of things are they exposed to, what are they doing with their lives, where are we trying to drive them? We must understand that a child, particularly a youth, means humanity in the making. Even with a car, you expect the next model to be better than the current model. If the car company keeps manufacturing the same model, will you buy it every year? Similarly, the next generation should not think, feel and act the same as you do. That should not be the expectation. At the same time, whether they are working towards their wellbeing or not is definitely a concern for the parent.

A child’s wellbeing cannot happen just by fixing that one child. We need an ecosystem because a child is not independent of the atmosphere in which he or she grows up. A child is a product of that atmosphere. We have to cultivate the atmosphere. If we want flowers, we have to maintain the atmosphere. We cannot pull flowers out of the plant. It does not work like that. We will end up with plastic flowers if we try that.

Most parents do not cultivate the genius of their children. They are trying to drive their children in a particular direction. Do not drive. You cannot get rose flowers from a plant that is not a rose plant. It will come out with a different kind of flower. You should not expect rose flowers out of everything just because you like rose flowers. You have a new and fresh life in your home. We do not know what will come out of it.

When I was a youth, if someone told me to do this or that, I would not do it unless it made sense to me. The only thing in my life that paid off for me was that I never got influenced by anybody, either the family, the society, the religious atmosphere or the political atmosphere. I just kept myself the way the creator made me. I kept myself a little aloof from everything, and I saw slowly, there is a certain intelligence just to be alive.

This is why I tell people that to bear and raise a child, you must have either enormous courage or enormous wisdom. Because a new life is not a small thing. If you see it as a phenomenon which blossomed in your body, came out and is growing – out of two cells, life is happening in front of you, taking shape – if you watch it with utter wonder and create the right kind of atmosphere, your child will grow into something beautiful. But they may not be the rose flower that you expected. They need not become what you expect because your expectations are coming from the graveyard of the past. Children belong to the future.

Children do not belong to you, and they do not come from you. They only come through you. It is a privilege that we must appreciate and enjoy, rather than thinking it is our right or trying to determine where they should go and what they should do. As long as they are working towards their wellbeing and they are not doing something negative against their own life, you must wait. For the entire time until the child becomes twenty-one, you must feel like you are still pregnant. Just wait. When the child was inside, you did nothing, right? Just nourished yourself well and waited. Just like that – provide the atmosphere and wait.