Neither Seek Nor Avoid, Take What Comes.

The title is a quote from the collected works of Swami Vivekananda. My choice for the topic for this week’s 2 on 1 post came about inspired by the following comment by my fellow 2 on 1 blogger Shackman on my last week’s 2 on 1 post. “Mostly though I simply accept what has been my life essentially as my destiny – which frankly surprised me.” He zapped me further when I suggested this title with – “The Swami speaks again! Sounds good!”

Here is the Swami’s take on the topic.

In 2007, Nassim Nicholas Taleb published a book called The Black Swan. In it, he argues that human history is best understood in terms of its most consequential events. The thing about these events is that, once they’ve already happened, we always think we understand the causes of why they occurred. But the truth is, that they’re fundamentally unpredictable. We only have the illusion of understanding them. The implication, and the meat of Taleb’s book, is about how you have to expect the unexpected.

So, how does one go about expect the unexpected and also accept that there is every likelihood of the unlikely happening?

The answer lies in two parts.  The first is in The Serenity Prayer. For the uninitiated, it is as follows:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Even if one is an atheist or an agnostic, instead of “God”, one can say “May I have” as a means of auto suggestion and the advice given in the topic becomes a child’s play.

The second part is in the Zen observation’

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself.”

~ Matsuo Bashō

Both parts suggest developing a state of equanimity. Difficult to put into practice but,  not impossible.  Just about every spiritual discipline suggests that one tries to reach this stage of being, so that one can live a peaceful and stress free life.

To know others is wisdom;
To know yourself is enlightenment
To master others requires force;
To master yourself requires true strength.”

~ Lao Tzu. Tao Te Ching. Ch 33.

Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the same topic.

Attitude Of Gratitude.

This post gets its inspiration from Cheerful Monk’s post “Taking Things For Granted.”

two monks

One evening two monks arrived at their hut. For four months they had been away travelling but now, as it was the rainy season, they had returned to their hut. But when they reached their hut, the younger monk who was walking ahead suddenly became angry and sad.

The winds of the rains had carried away half of the hut; only half of it was left. They had come back after four months in the hope that they would be able to rest in the hut and be safe from the rain. But now it was difficult. Half of the hut had fallen down and half of its roof had been carried away by the winds.

The young monk said to his old companion, ”This is too much! These are the things which create doubt about the existence of god. The sinners have palaces in the cities, nothing has happened to them, but the hut of poor people like us, who spend day and night in prayer, is in ruins. I doubt whether god exists! Is this prayer real! Or are we making a mistake? Maybe there is truth in sin – because the palaces of the sinful stand safe and the huts of the people who pray are carried away by the winds.”

The young monk was full of anger and condemnation and he felt that all his prayers were futile. But his old companion raised his folded hands towards the sky and tears of joy started flowing from his eyes. The young man was surprised. He said,”What are you doing?”

The old man said, ”I am thanking god, because who knows what the winds might have done? They could have blown away the whole hut, but god must have created some obstacles for the wind and in that way saved half our hut for us. God is concerned about us poor people also, so we should thank him. Our prayers have been heard, our prayers have not been futile – otherwise the whole roof might have been blown away.”

That night both of them slept – but as you can imagine, both slept in different ways. The one who was full of anger and rage, and who thought that all his prayers were futile, kept on changing his position all night, and all kinds of nightmares and worries were racing around in his mind. He was worried. There were clouds in the sky; it was about to rain. Half of the roof had been blown away by the winds and they could see the sky. Tomorrow the rain would start, then what would happen?

The other slept a very deep sleep. Who else can sleep so peacefully except one whose being is filled with gratitude and thankfulness? He got up in the morning and started dancing, and singing a song. In the song he said, ”O God! We didn’t know that there could be so much bliss in a broken-down hut. If we had known it before, then we would not have even bothered your winds, we ourselves would have taken away half of the roof. I never slept so blissfully. Because half of the roof was not there, I saw the stars and the gathering clouds in your sky whenever I opened my eyes during the night. And now that the rains are about to start it will be even more beautiful because, with half the roof gone, we will be able to hear the music of your rain-drops much more clearly. We have been idiots! We have spent so many rainy seasons sheltering inside the hut. We had no idea what joy it could be to be exposed to the sky and the wind and the rain. If we had realized it we would not have bothered your winds, we ourselves would have got rid of half the roof.”

The young man asked, ”What is this I am hearing? What is all this nonsense? What is this madness? What are you saying?”

The old man said, ”I have looked at things deeply and my experience is that whatever makes us more happy, that is the right direction in life for us, and whatever makes us suffer more, that is the wrong direction. I thanked god and my bliss increased. You became angry at god and your anguish increased. You were restless last night, I slept peacefully. Now I am able to sing a song and you are burning with anger. Very early I came to understand that the direction in which life becomes more blissful is the right direction. And I have directed my whole consciousness towards that direction. I don’t know whether god exists or not, I don’t know whether he has heard our prayers or not, but my proof is that I am happy and dancing, and you are crying and angry and worried. My bliss proves that my way of living is right; your anguish proves that the way you are living is wrong.”



Pravin, this is with reference to our conversation yesterday on Karmanye Vaadikarasthey…..


One German professor, Herrigel, was one of the first Western disciples of a Zen master in Japan. He was learning archery. He was already a great archer in Germany, because there values are different. He was a great archer because he was always right one hundred percent, his arrow reaching to the exact middle of the target, the bull’s-eye. In Germany your success will be counted by the percentage – a hundred percent, ninety percent, eighty percent. That is the way it is counted all around the world, except in Japan.

In Japan, when Herrigel had learned archery for years in Germany and had become the champion archer of Germany, he heard about a different valuation. He went to Japan and remained there for three years with a master. He could not understand why the master was always saying, ”You missed” – and his arrow was always reaching exactly to the bull’s- eye.

The master said, ”That is not the point, whether your arrow reaches the bull’s-eye or not. The point is that you should be spontaneous. Forget about the target. Remember that you should be spontaneous, you should not make an effort.”

Three years passed, but the German professor, Herrigel, could not understand what this man was talking about. Every day he would try, and the master would say, ”No!”

Finally he decided to go back: ”This is useless, wasting time!” He could not understand what this spontaneity is. He could not understand how you can be spontaneous when you are an archer. You have to take the bow in your hand, you have to aim, you have to be exact so that your arrow reaches to the point – how can you be without effort? Some effort is absolutely needed. And you will agree that he was not wrong.

But Zen will not agree. The Zen master continued working, without getting bored or fed up that three years have passed and this man cannot relax.

Herrigel told him after three years, ”Tomorrow I have to leave. I’m sorry that I could not understand. I still carry the idea that I am one hundred percent right, so how can you say that I don’t know archery at all?”

So the next day, early in the morning, he went to see the master for the last time. The master was teaching somebody else, so he sat there on the bench and just looked. For the first time he was not concerned; he was going, he had dropped the idea of learning archery through Zen, so he was totally relaxed and was watching, just watching how the master took the bow in his hand and how he totally relaxed as if not concerned at all whether the arrow reaches to the target or not, with no tension and with no desire, being just playful and relaxed.

He had been seeing the master for three years, but because he was full of desire he could not see that his archery was totally different: the value is not in the target, the value is in your gesture, in you. Are you relaxed? Are you total? Is your mind absolutely silent? A different orientation… because the archery is not important, the meditation is important. And a man of meditation, although he does not care about the target, simply reaches the target, with no mind, in utter clarity, in silence, relaxed.

Zen has brought a different valuation to everything. In China they have a saying that when a musician becomes perfect, he throws away his instruments; when an archer becomes perfect, he throws away his bows and arrows. Strange, because what is the point of becoming a perfect archer and now you are throwing away your bows and arrows?


Something unique about where I live.

My blogger friend Sire, in his blog has requested all his readers not to let him down and post about something unique about where they live.

Unable to refuse such an earnest request, here is something unique about Pune, India, where I live.

It is a meditation center that was built when Osho the mystic was still alive, in his ashram. The place has now become a meditation resort, but this post is exclusively about the meditation center.

Sire, not as glamorous as the rocking horse, but unique in its own way, don’t you think?