These are a few of my favorite things:#41(Visioneers)

 Visioneers is a satire on Modern Life where everyone is chasing happiness but no one is happy. It follows the life n times of George Washington Winsterhammerman(Zach Galifianakis) who works in a huge corporation known as Jeffers.

tumblr_msecjiMUOv1sd9pzoo1_500

Workers everywhere are exploding because of stress. George is trying to make sense of all this as he desperately tries to keep himself from exploding. But signs of stress in his life are palpable & growing, they just can’t be ignored anymore.Now ain’t this the fate of average cubicle rat everywhere? Work that gives one nothing but stress & emptiness, yet everyone just keeps going somehow. People know that their jobs are mind numbing n stressful but they try to address this very superficially. No one digs deep to find the root cause of stress.

A loudspeaker at the office keeps announcing the minutes of productivity left till the weekend.

tumblr_msecjiMUOv1sd9pzoo3_500

The corporation and its leader, Mr. Jeffers, claim success is achieved by its strict philosophy of mindless productivity. Jeffers teaches that productivity equals happiness, and the business logo (a middle finger) is the standard greeting in society.

tumblr_mrdvmo8lGC1rikvkwo1_500

Now this is really telling! Are humans just  productive machines??I see most of wage slaves around me cursing mondays n waiting for fridays. They just bide their working week somehow n yet they can’t give up on their mind numbing jobs ‘cos they got stuff to buy. People are addicted to spending. They must have the latest costly gadgets n gizmos, branded clothing, glitzy, fancy cars, lavish homes, exotic holidays. & to finance all these needless aspirations they sell their time n soul monday to friday…can’t leave the job, gotta keep up with joneses. 

The answer is really easy. If one can live simply & frugally, then one can save enough n get off the bandwagon n enjoy really living the life, a life not with any of the shiny glitzy toys but filled with joys of simple things like a hot cup of tea drunk leisurely, the joy of Art, movies, books n music, walks n house hold chores. No more mad rush. But instead of choosing the Joyful less traveled road people keep exploding n wondering why…n looking for solutions in all wrong places. 

Talking of trying to find happiness in wrong places brings us to George’s wife (Judy Greer) who is always watching some Oprah-esque (yup, I coined this word,yayyyyy) TV shows about happiness & buying the latest Happiness Bestsellers. This is tragically hilarious. This is what is going around us everywhere. People are trying to seek happiness through shortcuts like ‘The Secret’ which promises to be a mantra for gaining all that we desire, whether we deserve them or not, whether we work hard for them or not. Just visualize it, give orders to Universe & receive it…achieving dreams are as simple as that. But there is just one little problem. It doesn’t really work it that way in real life. Here take a look: 

These happiness shortcuts don’t work either for the happiness show hostess nor for the wife n sure enough they simply don’t work for anyone. In a hilarious scene the hostess, finally realizing the futility of her own mantras shoots herself n dies. The wife leaves George. Fortunately, finally George is able to get a grip of his situation n finds a solution to his problems. I won’t reveal how. The Audience have a strong reaction to the movie. You either love it or don’t get it at all. It’s like some people are so much trapped in their corporate existence that they can”t see the trappings of their success n the reality of their own miserable existence. Visioneers has made quite a wave at film festivals:

Visioneers_FestList

Visoneers(2008)

Directed by: Jared Drake
Written by: Brandon Drake
Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Judy Greer, Fay Masterson, James LeGros

Advertisements

September 10, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Happiness, Meaning of Life, Movies, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings. 3 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #39(Walden on Wheels : On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas)

Pic courtesy New york times

Pic courtesy New york times

This book takes us on an inspiring journey as we get to know how the author Ken Ilgunas frees himself from a massive educational loan by following the simplicity n frugality model of Thoreau’s Walden.

I was drawn to the book for 3 main reasons. First, I found Ilgunas’ desire to live super frugally in order to pay his loans Very refreshing. This is totally opposite of what I see the kids doing in India(majority though definitely not all).  Parents here  finance the most expensive education of kids, even taking loans in their own names. & after that if these kids don’t get a high paying job which  they feel they deserve, they won’t pick up some small jobs to support themselves + they never dream of cutting down their royal extravagant lifestyle. They must have all the luxuries: expensive gym memberships,  expensive food items. Even after draining their parents financially, they behave irresponsibly, can’t be bothered to switch of lights n fans even when not in use (electricity bills be damned, after all parent will be paying for that too in any case), they can’t even pick up after themselves or do things around home (they need to have their personal servants). The standards of living of these shameless, self entitled youth is very high. Ken Ilgunas is indeed the role model this generation needs.

Second I’ve always admired Thoreau’s experiments in solitude, simplicity & frugality.

Third I find the calm, quite life full of simplicity, solitude & grace which the author led far more desirable & charming than the grotesque life of the Filthy Rich n Famous

Here is an excerpt from the book:

My experiment began in the spring semester of 2009 when I enrolled in the graduate liberal studies department. Months before, I had just finished paying off $32,000 in undergraduate student loans — no easy feat for an English major.

To pay off my debt, I’d found jobs that provided free room and board. I moved to Coldfoot, Alaska — 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 250 from the nearest store — where I worked as a lodge cleaner, a tour guide and a cook. Later, I worked on a trail crew in Mississippi in an AmeriCorps program. Between jobs I hitchhiked more than 7,000 miles to avoid paying airfare. When I couldn’t find work, I moved in with friends. My clothes came from donation bins, I had friends cut my hair, and I’d pick up odd jobs when I could. Nearly every dime I made went into my loans.

I hated my debt more than anything. I dragged it with me wherever I went. While I was still leading an exciting, adventurous life, I knew I could never truly be free until my debt was gone.

I finally got out of the red when I landed a well-paying job with the Park Service as a backcountry ranger. Finally, after two and a half years of work, my debt was gone. I had four grand in the bank that was mine. All mine. It was the first time I had actual money that hadn’t been borrowed or given to me since I was a 13-year-old paperboy.

The more money I had borrowed, I came to realize, the more freedom I had surrendered. Yet, I still considered my education — as costly as it was — to be priceless. So now, motivated to go back to school yet determined not to go back into debt, I had to think outside the box. Or, as Henry David Thoreau might suggest, inside one.

In “Walden,” Thoreau mentioned a 6 foot-by-3 foot box he had seen by the railroad in which laborers locked up their tools at night. A man could live comfortably in one of these boxes, he thought. Nor would he have to borrow money and surrender freedom to afford a “larger and more luxurious box.”

And so: I decided to buy a van. Though I had never lived in one, I knew I had the personality for it. I had a penchant for rugged living, a sixth sense for cheapness, and an unequaled tolerance for squalor.

My first order of business upon moving to Duke was to find my “Walden on Wheels.” After a two-hour bus ride into the North Carolinian countryside, I caught sight of the ’94 Ford Econoline that I had found advertised on Craigslist. Googly-eyed, I sauntered up to it and lovingly trailed fingertips over dents and chipped paint. The classy cabernet sauvignon veneer at the top slowly, sensuously faded downward into lustrous black. I got behind the wheel and revved up the fuel-funneling beast. There was a grumble, a cough, then a smooth and steady mechanical growl. It was big, it was beautiful, and — best of all — it was $1,500.

I bought it immediately. So began what I’d call “radical living.”

My “radical living” experiment convinced me that the things plunging students further into debt — the iPhones, designer clothes, and even “needs” like heat and air conditioning, for instance — were by no means “necessary.” And I found it easier to “do without” than I ever thought it would be. Easier by far than the jobs I’d been forced to take in order to pay off my loans.

Living in a van was my grand social experiment. I wanted to see if I could — in an age of rampant consumerism and fiscal irresponsibility — afford the unaffordable: an education.

I pledged that I wouldn’t take out loans. Nor would I accept money from anybody, especially my mother, who, appalled by my experiment, offered to rent me an apartment each time I called home. My heat would be a sleeping bag; my air conditioning, an open window. I’d shower at the gym, eat the bare minimum and find a job to pay tuition. And — for fear of being caught — I wouldn’t tell anybody.

Living on the cheap wasn’t merely a way to save money and stave off debt; I wanted to live adventurously. I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to find the line between my wants and my needs. I wanted, as Thoreau put it, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life … to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Not only is his story of adventure very gripping n absorbing, but the book is peppered with little gems of wisdom like these:

“Reading sixteenth-century French poetry, suffering through Kant, and studying the finer points of the Jay Treaty may seem to be, on first appearance, completely, utterly, irrefutably pointless, yet somehow in studying, discussing, and writing about these ‘pointless’ subjects, the liberal arts have the capacity to turn on a certain part of the brain that makes us ask ourselves questions like: 

Who am I?  What’s worth fighting for? Who’s lying to us? What’s my purpose? What’s the point of it all? 

Perhaps many students would rather not be irritated with these questions, yet being compelled to grapple with them, it seems, can make us far less likely to be among those who’ll conform, remain complacent, or seek jobs with morally ambiguous employers” (p. 243).

“Discomforts are only discomforting when they’re an unexpected inconvenience, an unusual annoyance, an unplanned-for irritant. Discomforts are only discomforting when we aren’t used to them. But when we deal with the same discomforts every day, they become expected and part of the routine, and we are no longer afflicted with them the way we were…Give your body the chance to harden, your blood to thicken, and your skin to toughen, and you’ll find that the human body carries with it a weightless wardrobe. When we’re hardy in mind and body, we can select from an array of outfits to comfortably bear most any climate”

This book would be of huge interest not only for students, but for anyone seeking simple, spartan, frugal n calm way of living. We need more young guys like Ken Ilgunas n we need more inspirational tales like this.

September 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #38(Queen of Versailles); Quitting the Rat Race #19

cn_image.size.queen-of-versailles

Queen of Versailles is a peek into the (sad & pathetic) lives of (filthy) Rich n Famous. We always try to speculate whether money buys happiness or not. We philosophize & wonder about it. We reason n we argue. There is no definitive answer to this quest. Everyone has their own hypothesis n conclusions. Now this Award winning Documentary  by Lauren Greenfield  gives us an excellent lens to see things with our own eyes. n then decide!! It’s a commentary on the emptiness of consumerism driven life & failure of the American Dream.

The Queen of Versailles” began as a documentary about a time-share billionaire, his ditzy wife, and their grotesque quest to build the largest house in the United States of America. It ended as perhaps the single best film on the Great Recession.”

The Siegels have a plan to build a 90,000 square feet home, bigger than the White house n modeled on the Palace of Versailles, ‘cos their life can no longer fit into the 26,000 square feet home!! Now just look at what all it will have when finished:

When completed it will have:

  • 15 bedrooms

  • 30 bathrooms, each with a full-sized jacuzzi tub

  • 10 kitchens and a sushi bar

  • Bowling alley

  • Baseball field

  • 2-3 Theater sized Entertainment Centres

  • Roller-skating rink

  • Arcade

  • 3 swimming pools

  • Fitness center

  • Spa

  • 20 car garage

  • Staff Quarters

10 Kitchens!! Are you fucking kidding me? I mean what do you need 10 kitchens for?? Reminds me of one of my favorite stories, ‘The Billionaires‘ by Maxim Gorky in which he wonders what do billionaires do with all the wealth..Do have stomachs twice/thrice the size of normal people? or do they have more mouths?? or maybe more teeth!

Now about the Siegels:

David Siegel is the founder n owner of Westgate, the pioneer n biggest player in Timeshare holiday industry. He is 74 something. He married Jackie, a beauty pageant winner n 30 years his junior when he was 60. Together they have 8 children!!!. Jackie has a fondness for shopping n she shops things by truckloads (or rather limousine loads) when the stuff is already overflowing in their huge mansion. There are too many children, too many (neglected) pets,too many nannies n housekeeping help n too much clutter, n too little appreciation for anything, n no Savings. Obviously they fly in their Private jets n when the recession hit their fortunes, the ‘poor’ folks had to fly commercial…one of the son asks, ‘What are all these people doing in our plane?’ !!

David says everyone wants to be rich,if they are not rich, they want to feel rich n if they don’t want to feel rich, they are dead!!! 

But is he himself happy with all this wealth and opulence?? The Answer comes from the horses mouth. David  openly admits to the camera that nothing makes him happy any more. Asked if he draws strength from his marriage, he flatly replies, “No.” Finally , some sense starts to prevail when it becomes clear to him that recession has actually hit them too. Then he is like a normal middle class person getting worried about electricity bills, Housing staff is cut down drastically, but regardless the X’mas shopping n party are celebrated with fanfare.

As a person who actually enjoys frugality n living beneath the mean,I really don’t understand a lifestyle filled with so much extravagance n wastage. Period. Even if I had billions n trillions I would really want to stay the way we live now. The big mansions don’t even excite me. I dream of shifting into smaller n smaller homes n finally ending up in tiny house (1100 square feet). Tiny houses n simple lifestyle with low footprint is what excites me. I am not even interested in how their life fell apart during recession…I don’t like that extravagant n wasteful lifestyle even if had continued being so without hiccups. That kind of lifestyle is empty n hideous. I’m simply not interested in too much money, ‘cos all it gets you is a super ugly gold throne. I’m happy lounging in my easy chair, reading books n daydreaming.

enhanced-buzz-8506-1355897779-2

September 4, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . English Movies, Happiness, Meaning of Life, Movies, Must Watch Movies, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom. 1 comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #31 (The Billionaire by Maxim Gorky)

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I once read an amusing anecdote by Osho which goes like this:

One day Mulla Nasruddin told me, “I wish I had more land”.

 I asked him, “But why? As it is you already have enough”.

 He said, “I could raise lot more cows”.

 I asked him, “And what would you do with them?”

 He said, “Sell them & make more money.”

 “And then? What are you going to do with that money?”

 “Buy more land.”

 “For what?”

 “To raise more cows.”

This is the way it goes, you never come out of it.

Similar sentiment runs through this humorous & Brilliant short story by the Russian author Maxim Gorky

The Billionaire

by Maxim Gorkiy


The kings of steel, of petroleum, and all the other kings of the United States have always in a high degree excited my power of imagination. It seemed to me certain that these people who possess so much money could not be like other mortals.

Each of them (so I said to myself) must call his own, at least, three stomachs and a hundred and fifty teeth. I did not doubt that the millionaire ate without intermission, from six o’clock in the morning till midnight. It goes without saying, the most exquisite and sumptuous viands! Toward evening, then, he must be tired of the hard chewing, to such a degree that (so I pictured to myself) he gave orders to his servants to digest the meals that he had swallowed with satisfaction during the day. Completely limp, covered with sweat and almost suffocated, he had to be put to bed by his servants, in order that on the next morning at six o’clock he might be able to begin again his work of eating.

Nevertheless, it must be impossible for such a man — whatever pains he might take — to consume merely the half of the interest of his wealth.

To be sure, such a life is awful, but what is one to do? For what is one a millionaire — what am I saying? — a billionaire, if one cannot eat more than every other common mortal! I pictured to myself that this privileged being wore cloth-of-gold underclothing, shoes with gold nails, and instead of a hat a diadem of diamonds on his head. His clothes, made of the most expensive velvet, must be at least fifty feet long and fastened with three hundred gold buttons; and on holidays he must be compelled by dire necessity to put on over each other six pairs of costly trousers. Such a costume is certainly very uncomfortable. But, if one is rich like that, one can’t after all dress like all the world.

The pocket of a billionaire, I pictured to myself so big that therein easily a church or the whole senate could find room. The paunch of such a gentleman I conceived to myself like the hull of an ocean steamer, the length and breadth of which I was not able to think out. Of the bulk, too, of a billionaire I could never give myself a clear idea; but I supposed that the coverlet under which he sleeps measures a dozen hundred square yards. If he chews tobacco, it was unquestionably only the best kind, of which he always sticks two pounds at a time into his mouth. And on taking snuff (I thought to myself) he must use up a pound at a pinch. Indeed, money will be spent!

His fingers must possess the magic power of lengthening at will. In spirit, I saw a New York billionaire as he stretched out his hand across Bering Strait and brought back a dollar that had rolled somewhere toward Siberia, without especially exerting himself thereby.

Curiously, I could form to myself no clear conception of the headof this monster. In this organism consisting of gigantic muscles and bones that is made for squeezing money out of all things, a head seemed to me really quite superfluous.

Who, now, can conceive my astonishment when, standing facing one of these fabulous beings, I arrived at the conviction that a billionaire is a human being like all the rest!

I saw there comfortably reclining in an armchair a long, wizened old man, who held his brown, sinewy hands folded across a body of quite ordinary dimensions. The flabby skin of his face was carefully shaved. The underlip, which hung loosely down, covered solidly built jaws, in which gilded teeth were stuck. The upper lip, smooth, narrow and pallid, scarcely moved when the old man spoke. Colorless eyes without brows, a perfectly bald skull. It might be thought that a little skin was wanting to this reddish face, to this countenance that was expressionless and puckered like that of one new-born. Was this being just beginning its life, or was it already nearing its end?

Nothing in his dress distinguished him from the ordinary mortal. A ring, a watch, and his teeth were all the gold he carried with him. Scarcely half a pound, all told! Taken altogether, the appearance of the man recalled that of an old servant of an aristocratic family in Europe.

The furnishing of the room in which he received me had nothing unusually luxurious about it. The furniture was solid; that is all that can be said. Oftentimes elephants probably come into this house, I involuntarily thought at the sight of the heavy, substantial pieces of furniture.

‘Are you the billionaire?’ I asked, since I could not trust my eyes.

‘Yes, indeed,’ he answered, nodding convincingly with his head.

‘How much meat can you consume for breakfast?’

‘I eat no meat in the morning,’ he avowed. ‘A quarter of an orange, an egg, a small cup of tea, that’s all . . .’

His innocent child’s-eyes blinked with a feeble luster, like two drops of muddy water.

‘Good,’ I began again, half disconcerted. ‘But be honest with me; tell me the truth. How often in the day do you eat?’

‘Twice,’ he answered, peacefully. ‘Breakfast and dinner suffice me. At noon I take soup, a little white meat, vegetables, fruit, a cup of coffee, a cigar . . .’

My surprise grew apace. I drew breath, and went on:

‘But, if that’s true, what do you do with your money?’

‘Make more money!’

‘What for?’

‘To make more money out of that!’

‘What for?’ I repeated.

He leaned toward me, his hands supported by the arms of his chair, and with some curiosity in his expression he said:

‘You are probably cracked?’

‘And you?’ I said . . .

The old man inclined his head, and, whistling softly through the gold of his teeth, he said:

‘Droll wag! . . . You are the first human being of your species that I ever became acquainted with.’

Then he bent his head back and looked at me some time, silently and scrutinizingly.

‘What do you do?’ I began again.

‘Make money,’ he answered, shortly.

‘Oh, you’re a counterfeiter!’ I exclaimed, joyfully, for I thought I had finally got to the bottom of the mystery. But the billionaire flew into a passion. His whole body shook, his eyes rolled actively.

‘That is unheard of!’ he said, when he had calmed down. Then he inflated his cheeks, I don’t know why.

I considered, and put further the following question to him:

‘How do you make money?’

‘Oh, that’s very simple. I possess railroads; the farmers produce useful commodities, which I transport to the markets. I calculate exactly to myself how much money I must leave the farmer, in order that he may not starve and be able to produce further. The rest I keep myself as transportation charges. That’s surely very simple!’

‘And are the farmers satisfied with it?’

‘Not all, I believe,’ he answered, with a naïve childishness. ‘But they say that the people are never satisfied. There are always odd characters who want still more . . .’

Some people get fixated on acquiring more and more money without even pausing to think what do they want it for? Is it worth slogging for money after we have enough to get all our necessities? Where will all that huffing n puffing for more and more money lead us? Isn’t contentment a smarter choice?

~It is not the man who has little, but he who desires more, that is poor. ~ Seneca

 ~Greed will always leave you dissatisfied because you’ll never be able to get everything you desire. Greed never allows you to think you have enough; it always destroys you by making you strive ever harder for more. ~ Rabbi Benjamin Blech, Taking Stock: A Spiritual Guide to Rising Above Life’s Ups and Downs

~Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.~Socrates

~Money is just a tool, don’t let it make you a fool.

May 13, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Happiness, Humor, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Osho, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Short-Story, Wisdom. 3 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #25 (Soak up the sun by Sheryl Crow)

Soak up the sun by Sheryl Crow

My friend the communist
Holds meetings in his RV
I can’t afford his gas
So I’m stuck here watching TV

I don’t have digital
I don’t have diddly squat
It’s not having what you want
It’s wanting what you’ve got

I’m gonna soak up the sun
I’m gonna tell everyone
To lighten up (I’m gonna tell ’em that)
I’ve got no one to blame
For every time I feel lame
I’m looking up
I’m gonna soak up the sun
I’m gonna soak up the sun

I’ve got a crummy job
It don’t pay near enough
To buy the things it takes
To win me some of your love
Every time I turn around
I’m looking up, you’re looking down
Maybe something’s wrong with you
That makes you act the way you do

I’m gonna soak up the sun
I’m gonna tell everyone
To lighten up (I’m gonna tell ’em that)
I’ve got no one to blame
For every time I feel lame
I’m looking up

I’m gonna soak up the sun
While it’s still free

I’m gonna soak up the sun
Before it goes out on me

Don’t have no master suite
But I’m still the king of me
You have a fancy ride, but baby
I’m the one who has the key
Every time I turn around
I’m looking up, you’re looking down
Maybe something’s wrong with you
That makes you act the way you do
Maybe I am crazy too

Who needs stupid expensive materialistic stuff when we have a rocking attitude to enjoy an uncomplicated simple life? The beauty of simple pleasures (n listening to such songs is among them) is really something else n is really kinda lost on people who are stuck in the rat race n living the false dream.Maybe something is really wrong with them to be lost in false glittery branded fake things n looking down on folks who are having the real fun!! Instead of racing for the new car, or gizmos or exotic vactions n villas, I’d just soak up the sun n chill. !!

Also check out my another favorite: Society

March 7, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Happiness, Music, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Quitting the Rat Race, Simplicity, Wisdom. 1 comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #15 (I’m a Nobody by Emily Dickinson)

I’m a Nobody by Emily Dickinson

Emily dickinson

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us
Don’t tell—they’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public—like a frog—
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

 This poem literally speaks to me, ‘cos in a world full of people who worship the rich & famous & who want their 15 minutes of fame, I (and few  kindred souls) am (are)  happy being a nobody .

People will go to any lengths to gain fame, even become buffoons in front of the world in the so called reality TV shows. I simply don’t understand the charms of fame. Celebrities say that they enjoy being recognized everywhere, & I’m like what? What’s the benefit whatsoever to be never left alone peacefully to do your own things as you please rather than pleasing an audience all the times?  The poem satirizes glory seekers as well as their admiring fans. Much as I don’t understand the desire for fame, I understand celebrity worshiping still lesser. I’ve incredulously witnessed masses standing out in sun for hours to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrity. I couldn’t care less about a movie-star or a sport celebrity. What I value is my own being n people who are near n dear to me in my own little world.

Perhaps I’m of  tradition of people like Chuang Tzu who revel in their own glory & being rather than being worshiped by masses. If you want to be famous you are really a puppet to what people want from you.

 Once, when Chuang Tzu was fishing in the P’u river, the king of Ch’u sent two officials to go and announce to him: “I would like to trouble you with the administration of my realm.”

Chuang Tzu held onto the fishing pole and, without turning his head, said, “I have heard that there is a sacred tortoise in Ch’u that has been dead for three thousand years. The king keeps it wrapped in cloth and boxed, and stores it in the ancestral temple. Now would this tortoise rather be dead and have its bones left behind and honored? Or would it rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud?”

“It would rather be alive dragging its tail in the mud,” said the two officials.

Chuang Tzu said, “Go away! I’ll drag my tail in the mud!”

February 8, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Happiness, My lifestyle, My Values, Parables, Poetry, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #14 (The Lottery Ticket by Anton Chekhov)

Do you feel your life will be all milk n honey if you win a lottery ticket?? Do you believe money is the solution to all your problems?? Well read this story & think again ^-^

CHEKHOV, Anton Pavlovich (1860-1904)

The Lottery Ticket by Anton Chekhov

IVAN DMITRITCH, a middle-class man who lived with his family on an income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied with his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading the newspaper. 

“I forgot to look at the newspaper today,” his wife said to him as she cleared the table. “Look and see whether the list of drawings is there.” 

“Yes, it is,” said Ivan Dmitritch; “but hasn’t your ticket lapsed?” 

“No; I took the interest on Tuesday.” 

“What is the number?” 

“Series 9,499, number 26.” 

“All right . . . we will look . . . 9,499 and 26.” 

Ivan Dmitritch had no faith in lottery luck, and would not, as a rule, have consented to look at the lists of winning numbers, but now, as he had nothing else to do and as the newspaper was before his eyes, he passed his finger downwards along the column of numbers. And immediately, as though in mockery of his scepticism, no further than the second line from the top, his eye was caught by the figure 9,499! Unable to believe his eyes, he hurriedly dropped the paper on his knees without looking to see the number of the ticket, and, just as though some one had given him a douche of cold water, he felt an agreeable chill in the pit of the stomach; tingling and terrible and sweet! 

“Masha, 9,499 is there!” he said in a hollow voice. 

His wife looked at his astonished and panic-stricken face, and realized that he was not joking. 

“9,499?” she asked, turning pale and dropping the folded tablecloth on the table. 

“Yes, yes . . . it really is there!” 

“And the number of the ticket?” 

“Oh, yes! There’s the number of the ticket too. But stay . . . wait! No, I say! Anyway, the number of our series is there! Anyway, you understand. . . .” 

Looking at his wife, Ivan Dmitritch gave a broad, senseless smile, like a baby when a bright object is shown it. His wife smiled too; it was as pleasant to her as to him that he only mentioned the series, and did not try to find out the number of the winning ticket. To torment and tantalize oneself with hopes of possible fortune is so sweet, so thrilling! 

“It is our series,” said Ivan Dmitritch, after a long silence. “So there is a probability that we have won. It’s only a probability, but there it is!” 

“Well, now look!” 

“Wait a little. We have plenty of time to be disappointed. It’s on the second line from the top, so the prize is seventy-five thousand. That’s not money, but power, capital! And in a minute I shall look at the list, and there — 26! Eh? I say, what if we really have won?” 

The husband and wife began laughing and staring at one another in silence. The possibility of winning bewildered them; they could not have said, could not have dreamed, what they both needed that seventy-five thousand for, what they would buy, where they would go. They thought only of the figures 9,499 and 75,000 and pictured them in their imagination, while somehow they could not think of the happiness itself which was so possible. 

Ivan Dmitritch, holding the paper in his hand, walked several times from corner to corner, and only when he had recovered from the first impression began dreaming a little. 

“And if we have won,” he said — “why, it will be a new life, it will be a transformation! The ticket is yours, but if it were mine I should, first of all, of course, spend twenty-five thousand on real property in the shape of an estate; ten thousand on immediate expenses, new furnishing . . . travelling . . . paying debts, and so on. . . . The other forty thousand I would put in the bank and get interest on it.” 

“Yes, an estate, that would be nice,” said his wife, sitting down and dropping her hands in her lap. 

“Somewhere in the Tula or Oryol provinces. . . . In the first place we shouldn’t need a summer villa, and besides, it would always bring in an income.” 

And pictures came crowding on his imagination, each more gracious and poetical than the last. And in all these pictures he saw himself well-fed, serene, healthy, felt warm, even hot! Here, after eating a summer soup, cold as ice, he lay on his back on the burning sand close to a stream or in the garden under a lime-tree. . . . It is hot. . . . His little boy and girl are crawling about near him, digging in the sand or catching ladybirds in the grass. He dozes sweetly, thinking of nothing, and feeling all over that he need not go to the office today, tomorrow, or the day after. Or, tired of lying still, he goes to the hayfield, or to the forest for mushrooms, or watches the peasants catching fish with a net. When the sun sets he takes a towel and soap and saunters to the bathing-shed, where he undresses at his leisure, slowly rubs his bare chest with his hands, and goes into the water. And in the water, near the opaque soapy circles, little fish flit to and fro and green water-weeds nod their heads. After bathing there is tea with cream and milk rolls. . . . In the evening a walk or vint with the neighbours. 

“Yes, it would be nice to buy an estate,” said his wife, also dreaming, and from her face it was evident that she was enchanted by her thoughts. 

Ivan Dmitritch pictured to himself autumn with its rains, its cold evenings, and its St. Martin’s summer. At that season he would have to take longer walks about the garden and beside the river, so as to get thoroughly chilled, and then drink a big glass of vodka and eat a salted mushroom or a soused cucumber, and then — drink another. . . . The children would come running from the kitchen-garden, bringing a carrot and a radish smelling of fresh earth. . . . And then, he would lie stretched full length on the sofa, and in leisurely fashion turn over the pages of some illustrated magazine, or, covering his face with it and unbuttoning his waistcoat, give himself up to slumber. 

The St. Martin’s summer is followed by cloudy, gloomy weather. It rains day and night, the bare trees weep, the wind is damp and cold. The dogs, the horses, the fowls — all are wet, depressed, downcast. There is nowhere to walk; one can’t go out for days together; one has to pace up and down the room, looking despondently at the grey window. It is dreary! 

Ivan Dmitritch stopped and looked at his wife. 

“I should go abroad, you know, Masha,” he said. 

And he began thinking how nice it would be in late autumn to go abroad somewhere to the South of France . . . to Italy . . . . to India! 

“I should certainly go abroad too,” his wife said. “But look at the number of the ticket!” 

“Wait, wait! . . .” 

He walked about the room and went on thinking. It occurred to him: what if his wife really did go abroad? It is pleasant to travel alone, or in the society of light, careless women who live in the present, and not such as think and talk all the journey about nothing but their children, sigh, and tremble with dismay over every farthing. Ivan Dmitritch imagined his wife in the train with a multitude of parcels, baskets, and bags; she would be sighing over something, complaining that the train made her head ache, that she had spent so much money. . . . At the stations he would continually be having to run for boiling water, bread and butter. . . . She wouldn’t have dinner because of its being too dear. . . . 

“She would begrudge me every farthing,” he thought, with a glance at his wife. “The lottery ticket is hers, not mine! Besides, what is the use of her going abroad? What does she want there? She would shut herself up in the hotel, and not let me out of her sight. . . . I know!” 

And for the first time in his life his mind dwelt on the fact that his wife had grown elderly and plain, and that she was saturated through and through with the smell of cooking, while he was still young, fresh, and healthy, and might well have got married again. 

“Of course, all that is silly nonsense,” he thought; “but . . . why should she go abroad? What would she make of it? And yet she would go, of course. . . . I can fancy . . . In reality it is all one to her, whether it is Naples or Klin. She would only be in my way. I should be dependent upon her. I can fancy how, like a regular woman, she will lock the money up as soon as she gets it. . . . She will hide it from me. . . . She will look after her relations and grudge me every farthing.” 

Ivan Dmitritch thought of her relations. All those wretched brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles would come crawling about as soon as they heard of the winning ticket, would begin whining like beggars, and fawning upon them with oily, hypocritical smiles. Wretched, detestable people! If they were given anything, they would ask for more; while if they were refused, they would swear at them, slander them, and wish them every kind of misfortune. 

Ivan Dmitritch remembered his own relations, and their faces, at which he had looked impartially in the past, struck him now as repulsive and hateful. 

“They are such reptiles!” he thought. 

And his wife’s face, too, struck him as repulsive and hateful. Anger surged up in his heart against her, and he thought malignantly: 

“She knows nothing about money, and so she is stingy. If she won it she would give me a hundred roubles, and put the rest away under lock and key.” 

And he looked at his wife, not with a smile now, but with hatred. She glanced at him too, and also with hatred and anger. She had her own daydreams, her own plans, her own reflections; she understood perfectly well what her husband’s dreams were. She knew who would be the first to try and grab her winnings. 

“It’s very nice making daydreams at other people’s expense!” is what her eyes expressed. “No, don’t you dare!” 

Her husband understood her look; hatred began stirring again in his breast, and in order to annoy his wife he glanced quickly, to spite her at the fourth page on the newspaper and read out triumphantly: 

“Series 9,499, number 46! Not 26!” 

Hatred and hope both disappeared at once, and it began immediately to seem to Ivan Dmitritch and his wife that their rooms were dark and small and low-pitched, that the supper they had been eating was not doing them good, but lying heavy on their stomachs, that the evenings were long and wearisome. . . . 

“What the devil’s the meaning of it?” said Ivan Dmitritch, beginning to be ill-humoured. “Wherever one steps there are bits of paper under one’s feet, crumbs, husks. The rooms are never swept! One is simply forced to go out. Damnation take my soul entirely! I shall go and hang myself on the first aspen-tree!”

So there..winning the money might not be such a good idea after all. All the feeling of relaxation, love n contentment were evaporated at the mere speculation of a chance to win big money. This story very well illustrates, ‘Money doesn’t change people, it merely unmasks them’.  This story is a very insightful commentary on human nature. Reminds me of a joke , ‘A man comes home one day and says, “Guess what honey? Pack your bags, I won the lottery!” The wife squeals with delight and says, “That’s great! Should I pack for the mountains or the beach?” He says, “I don’t care, just pack n get out of here!”

February 7, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Consumerism, Happiness, Meaning of Life, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom. 3 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #13 (The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant)

English: Guy de Maupassant. Français : Guy de ...

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant is a tragedy that highlights the downside of discontent, ingratitude & showoffism (living to impress others & be admired by others). Matilde is a very beautiful woman born to a poor family & married to an equally poor clerk in the Department of Education. Her husband is very loving but Matilde is very unhappy. She feels she is born to lead a life of luxury & to be rubbing shoulders with the rich & famous.  She has lot of things going for her…she is beautiful, she has a loving husband & a good domestic help so she doesn’t have to slog it n do the domestic chores. But instead of enjoying the good things she does have she’s always pining for things she doesn’t have. One day Liosel brings her an invitation to a ball dance held by some high official in his ministry. Liosel also gives her money that he’d been saving, to buy a new dress for the ball but then she also wants jewellery to go with her new dress.  When Liosel suggests she could wear flowers she scoffs at the suggestion. Then it is decided that she will borrow some jewellery from her rich friend Mme. Foresteir. Thus Matilde attends the party dressed upto nines complete with the borrowed necklace. She is the center of attention that evening. That is perhaps the best evening in her life, reveling in all the attention lavished on her. But alas! Before the Ball ends she loses her friend’s necklace. So they buy a ditto new necklace on instalments & return it to Mme. Forestier. Then spend the next ten years slogging to earn the money to pay for it. Matilde has to do away with her domestic help & do all the chores. Soon she loses her beauty & starts ageing prematurely due to toil & worry. The final tragic moment occurs when she meets Mme. Foresteir in the market one day & learns the the necklace she borrowed was a fake!!! The story wouldn’t have been half as tragic if the lost necklace was indeed real n expensive. Through the fake necklace we are given the message that at times we may be lured by the glitter of glamorous life but it is nothing but hollow n empty from inside. The real joy comes from contentment & gratitude for the things we have in life n not for running after mirages.

Here’s a beautiful animated adoption of the story (subtitles in English)

February 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Happiness, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom, You tube. Leave a comment.

The Cake is Delicious (Living in the Present Moment): Zen Moments #8

English: Cake

English: Cake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Greatest appeal of Zen for me is it’s focus on Present Moment, Zen does not concern itself with concepts like past lives, future lives, God, etc…it’s premise is pure & simple: Now is the only reality we can experience, we should be happy in the present moment, rejoice in simple things that surround us rather than worrying unnecessarily about things which may or may not come to pass.

There was an old Zen monk. He was on his deathbed. The last day had come, and he declared that that evening he would be no more. So followers, disciples, friends started coming. From far and wide people gathered. One of his old disciples, when he heard that the master was going to die, ran to the market.

Somebody asked: The master is dying in his hut, why are you going to the market?The old disciple said: I know that my master loves a particular type of cake, so I am going to purchase the cake.

It was difficult to find the cake, because now it had gone out of fashion, but by the evening somehow he managed. He came running with the cake. And everybody was worried — it was as if the master was waiting for someone. He would open his eyes and look, and close his eyes again.

 And when this disciple came, he said: Okay, so you have come. Where is the cake? The disciple produced the cake — and he was very happy that the master asked about the cake. Dying, the master took the cake in his hand, but his hand was not trembling. He was very old, but his hand was not trembling. So somebody asked: You are so old and just on the verge of dying. The last breath is soon to leave you, but your hand is not trembling.

The master said: I never tremble, because there is no fear. My body has become old, but I am still young, and I will remain young even when the body is gone. Then he took a bite, started munching the cake. And then somebody asked: What is your last message, Master? You will be leaving us soon. What do you want us to remember?

 The master smiled and said: Ah, this cake is delicious.

This is a man who lives in the here and now: This cake is delicious. Even death is irrelevant. The next moment is meaningless. THIS moment this cake is delicious. If you can be in this moment, this present moment, this presentness, the plenitude, then only you can love.

June 28, 2012. Tags: , , , . Death, Happiness, Inspiration, Parables, Wisdom, Zen. 1 comment.

Be a Light unto yourself: Zen Moments #6

Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana

Image via Wikipedia

Every day Zuigan used to call out to himself, “Master!” and then he answered himself, “Yes, Sir!” And he added, “Awake, Awake!” and then answered, “Yes, Sir! Yes, Sir!”
“Do not be deceived by others!” “No, Sir! I will not, Sir!”

Buddha also said ‘Be a lamp unto yourself’

As his death approached, the Buddha said to those gathered around him:
Be a light unto yourself; betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth. Look not for refuge to anyone besides yourselves.


But it’s very common for people to fall into the trap of external voices & confirming to what ‘society’ wants people to do…many people fall into this trap and become sheeple (Sheeple (a portmanteau of “sheep” and “people”) is a term of disparagement in which people are likened to sheep, a herd animal. The term is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research. By doing so, they undermine their own individuality and may willingly give up their rights.)..people do not listen to their own inner voice but do what everyone else is doing without as much as questioning their choices. In today’s world it’s very easy to fall into the traps of advertising, peer pressure, American Dream, Indian Dream & what not…so like Zuigan we must keep reminding ourselves everyday to be our own master & march to our own tune.

February 16, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Buddha, Buddhism, Happiness, Meaning of Life, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom, Zen. 3 comments.

Zen & The Joy of Cooking: Zen Moments #5

English: paella cooking in Spain, by José-Manu...

Image via Wikipedia

“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”~Alan W. Watts

Today a news item caught my eyes ‘Community kitchen’ gives Bohra women freedom from cooking’:

‘Hundreds of women  from the Dawoodi Bohra community have been unshackled from the hearth thanks to the ‘community kitchen’
“Women spent most of their time cooking. Our religious head wanted to free them from the kitchens so that they could focus on more constructive work” ‘

Many people I know have same feelings as above towards cooking. They resent the time they have to spend in kitchen to cook. Maids are engaged to take this drudgery off their backs. I don’t associate words like drudgery, shackle, chore with my cooking…it is one of the core things I do for myself n my hubby very lovingly. I guess food cooked with love & care nurtures the bonds of affection. As my hubby always tells me that the reason he always finds food cooked by me delicious is because the main ingredient that I put in all my dishes is love. Likewise he also enjoys making tea for me & cooking for me on weekends. Also, Cooking, if done with the right frame of mind can be a very meditative, a very Zen like experience.

This article from New York Times brings out the various facets associated with the fine Art of Cooking
(The Zen of Cooking, Or Joy When Time Allows)

‘Cooking enhances a basic human need, he said, and therefore offers inherent pleasure.
“Cooking covers tremendous levels of complexity, varying from simple rote activity to artistry, thereby challenging people to do better and better,” says Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and author of “Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience” .
“I’m not surprised that cooking won’t go away,” he said. “I can lose myself making a Bolognese sauce, finely chopping the onions, the carrots, three kinds of meat, and the slow, slow simmering. There is a sense of order and control and something so wholesome and tactile about cooking. Besides, how many times does modern life offer the opportunity to create something with one’s hands?”
For home cooks like Ken Henke, a trial lawyer in Lafayette, La., the drudge aspects of preparing a meal are magic. “Cooking’s my therapy,” he said. “You have to concentrate on an onion when you’re mincing an onion. You can’t think about your high-stress job. A minced finger is not a pleasant addition to a gumbo.”
“Cooking a dish has a beginning, a middle and an end,” he said. “To me, that order can be as soothing and challenging as composing. In years of cooking, I’ve certainly gotten to know my limitations technically. But I’ve also come to see the kind of courage and tenacity that I have.”
Microwavable meals and cans that require only an opener can be a boon to harried life, but they don’t offer enough challenge to deliver such insight.
“If human beings only cared about satisfying a basic instinctual need, we’d grab food off a rack,” Dr. Csik szentmihalyi said. “But we don’t. To do that would be robbing ourselves of the possibility of an optimal experience.”
Saving time in the kitchen, in other words, doesn’t necessarily guarantee large deposits in the pleasure bank. Just as cooking transforms food, it can transform individuals. And this phenomenon isn’t limited to culinary professionals or hobbyists.
Cooking seems to be supplanting the proverbial basket-weaving in psychiatric and social rehabilitation efforts. Barbara Hughes, a social worker who runs a cooking program for homeless women in the Gramercy Park area of Manhattan, has found that, for her clients, “the act of reading a recipe, organizing ingredients and assembling a finished dish can become a model for responding to other life challenges.”
John Floyd, 28, had a similar experience. While serving eight months in Rikers Island on a weapons charge, he learned to cook in the prison’s Fresh Start program, and now he works in a restaurant as well as for a catering company, Catering With Conviction, that is operated by Fresh Start graduates. He says that learning to cook taught him basic organization skills, which helped give him self-esteem.
“I’d look at a dish, say a souffle, and know that’s rough to make,” he said. “I work at it and it’s a drag for a while. Then I make it, it comes out good and I’m sitting there knowing that that souffle is part of me. You can’t fake it in a kitchen. You do it right or you don’t. When you mess up, it’s not that big a deal. When you do it right, it gives you a good feeling and you start to think maybe you can do other things right, too.”
Like most other cooks interviewed, Mr. Floyd said that after submitting to the tedium that cooking requires, one becomes aware of the activity’s sensory pleasures. “I’m cooking fettuccine Alfredo for my sister last night and I take a whiff and, you know, the world seems O.K.,” he said.
Dr. Thomas Moore, a psychotherapist in western Massachusetts and author of “Care of the Soul: a Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Daily Life” (HarperCollins, 1992), said that the sensual aspect of cooking — the aroma, feel and taste of ingredients — allows people a connection to the natural world that is “invigorating, enlivening and ultimately quite healing.”
Marianne Mosely, 53, a computer programmer in Worthington, Ohio, said that after 23 years of making dinner for her family of six, she became “obsessed with putting the ‘nurture’ back into nutrition.”
“One evening between opening cans and wrapping things in plastic for the microwave, I realized that time-saving activities are more tedious than cooking,” she said.
But experimenting with new dishes for several hours on the weekend and several evenings at home, she said, “takes time, but it’s relaxing time, not drudge time.”
Bill Meisle, an actor and home-cooking enthusiast who lives in Camden, Me., said that shaping ingredients into a meal for his wife and four children “satisfies the alchemist in me.” And rising to the technical challenge of cooking, he added, “is profoundly gratifying to the provider in me.” Mr. Meisle called cooking “a curative process,” and said that eating his creations was gratifying, too.
Although eating ranks higher than cooking on Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s pleasure scale, devoted home-cooks seem more interested in baking their cake than in eating it. “Taste is almost an afterthought,” said Mr. Waxman of Kitchen Arts and Letters. “It is the process of making something with their hands that stimulates and excites people.”
Performers like Mr. Adams, the musician, and Mr. Meisle, the actor, admit to relishing the “voila!” in unveiling their dishes. “It’s a great joy to give sensual pleasure to a group of attractive men and women at my table,” Mr. Meisle said. “There’s also a certain sublimation of desire. I can please them without getting involved.”
Even so, like dozens of other cooks interviewed, Mr. Meisle said that it was the quiet hours of chopping and simmering, kneading and mixing that pulled him to the kitchen three or four nights a week. Like most cooks, he finds the technical challenge and sensory balm of cooking a rare solitary pleasure.
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi said, “Cooking is one of few activities that people feel better doing alone.”
Like the hands-on challenge and tactile balm of cooking, the solitude of it is an antidote to the nanosecond pace of today’s world and probably a key reason that cooking won’t go away.
“There is a nascent wish for time and privacy that we used to try to address by making food products seem simple, fast and not too messy,” said Primo Angeli, the San Francisco designer, who creates food packaging for large food processors like Quaker Oats. “But people didn’t want to be totally free of the kitchen; they wanted to be free and creative and unto themselves in the kitchen.”
To Mr. Angeli and other food marketers, an oft-quoted remark by Julia Child is still the best evocation of the hunger for purposeful solitude.’

February 15, 2012. Tags: , , , . Happiness, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Zen. 1 comment.

Zen & the Art of Dying:Zen Moments #3

Daruma by Hakuin Ekaku (白隠 慧鶴, January 19, 168...

Image via Wikipedia

A samurai once asked Zen Master Hakuin where he would go after he died. Hakuin answered ‘How am I supposed to know?’ ‘How do you not know? You’re a Zen master!’ exclaimed the samurai. ‘Yes, but not a dead one,’ Hakuin answered.

A General and a Zen Master

During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived – everyone except the Zen master.

Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was.

When he wasn’t treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger.

“You fool,” he shouted as he reached for his sword, “don’t you realize you are standing before a man who could kill you without blinking an eye!”

But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved.

“And do you realize,” the master replied calmly, “that you are standing before a man who can be killed without blinking an eye?”

Usually people are interested in finding whether there is a life after death. Zen teachers say it is better to focus on the present moment than worry about the afterlife. The real question is not if there is life after death but if there is a life before death. As far as life after death is concerned there are just 3 possibilities: either we die n that is the end of our story or we keep reincarnating till we achieve nirvana or we pass on to other realms of existence…we can never be really sure of which of this 3 actually happens until we are, errr, well actually dead. Like the famous Greek Philosopher Epicurus said “When we are, death is not & when death is, we are not”. So what happens after death is really unimportant. It is a mystery for us the living. But death is certain that much is pretty sure & in fact though we hate to die, paradoxically it is death which makes life exciting or even bearable. Imagine being immortal, that would be a fate worse than death. So we as human beings are not meant to figure out what happens after death but rather how to make the most of life in face of impending death. The answer is we must learn to live each moment fully. To squeeze the juice out of each moment. It is said those who live wisely are not afraid to die. Only those who live half heartedly, die half heartedly. Just like we get a good night’s sleep after a day well spent, we can get a good death after a life well spent.

“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.”

Yamamoto TsunetomoHagakure (c. 1716)

February 9, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Buddhism, Death, Happiness, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Parables, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom, Zen. 4 comments.

Zen & the Art of Enjoying Everyday Life : Zen Moments #2

A small zen garden in the Japanese Tea Garden,...

Image via Wikipedia

A very famous saying/quote in Zen goes thus:

Before Enlightenment chopping wood & carrying water

After Enlightenment chopping wood & carrying water

Zen does not have any God or prayers. It just encourages us to discover our true selves & then be a lamp unto ourselves. When we practice Zen every moment becomes a Happy moment, a Zen moment.

The above quote is very significant. Though after enlightenment we continue to do the things we did before, the quality of these tasks changes dramatically. Before enlightenment chopping wood & carrying water (or cooking & doing dishes) is a chore, a burden, something that is done reluctantly, we’d rather be enjoying ourselves, having a high life, going to expensive restaurants in our big glitzy cars & such. There is an anger that we have to do these boring tasks. Our mind is pre-occupied with thoughts of past n future while we hate every second of our present moment. When we practice Zen though we continue to do the same things our feelings about these tasks is hugely transformed. We actually enjoy doing these tasks, we do these chores with devotion & dedication, with mindfulness & realize that there is tremendous beauty in doing them.  We realize there is nowhere else to go. We start to enjoy simple pleasures as a clean room & good food rather than exotic holidays & expensive clothes!! When we do things mindfully & with a happy heart, the quality of that thing changes.

Consider this Koan from ‘The Gateless Gate’:

A monk told Joshu, “I have entered your monastery, now please teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?”

The monk replied: “Yes I’ve eaten.”

Joshu said, “Then better wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened!!

After reading Zen books & learning about the basic concepts of Zen for last few days, I’ve been finally motivated to actually practice the practical aspects of Zen. Zen is more of doing rather than empty philosophizing. Zen is very experiential. Zen encourages simplicity. I’ve been spending my last few days in a Zen state. Finally I was motivated to clean my perpetually scattered closet, which was in nothing short of a nightmarish chaos. I always took the excuse that the closet was very small & did not have adequate space for my clothes & things. But when I finally decided to take the bulls by horns, it was surprising how discarding a few useless items can create space for the rest of our stuff. Earlier I was planning to buy an expensive wardrobe to accommodate my ever increasing collection of dresses, foot wear, accessories, Bags, Knick-nacks & what not. But then I applied Zen thinking to my problem, I came up with innovative & inexpensive solutions. I could do with a few inexpensive racks for my books & collapsible foldable shelves for my clothes & shoes. Now I’ve achieved a somewhat uncluttered & better room which I’m sure will turn into a beautiful sanctuary in next few days. I want to make many changes to the way we are used to doing things. I want to enjoy simple beauty & as I’m very fond of my cups of tea, I guess I’ll start with a beautiful tea set & tray to go with it & enjoy a beautiful Tea ceremony every day.

Thich Nhat Hanh says this about drinking tea mindfully (yup with Zen even tea drinking can become our meditation)

“When you drink tea in mindfulness, your body and your mind are perfectly united. You are real, and the tea you drink also becomes real. When you sit in a café, with a lot of music in the background and a lot of projects in your head, you’re not really drinking your coffee or your tea. You’re drinking your projects, you’re drinking your worries. You are not real, and the coffee is not real either. Your tea or your coffee can only reveal itself to you as a reality when you go back to yourself, and produce your true presence, freeing yourself from the past, the future, and from your worries. When you are real, the tea also becomes real and the encounter between you and the tea is real. This is genuine tea drinking. You can organize a tea meditation to provide an opportunity for your friends to practice being truly present in order to enjoy a cup of tea and each other’s presence. Tea meditation is a practice. It is a practice to help us be free. If you are still bound and haunted by the past, if you are still afraid of the future, if you are carried away by your projects, your fear, your anxiety, and your anger, you are not a free person. You are not fully present in the here and the now, so life is not really available to you. The tea, the other person, the blue sky, the flower, is not available to you. In order to be really alive, in order to touch life deeply, you have to become a free person. Cultivating mindfulness can help you to be free.”

We can enjoy such beautifully simple pleasures everyday in life. We don’t have to wait for any special occasion to celebrate life, with Zen every moment is beautiful, every moment is a celebration, yes even when we are chopping wood & carrying water, when we are doing dishes, sweeping the floor, dusting the furniture, with Zen all these things are labors of our love, our love for life itself.

January 29, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Happiness, My lifestyle, My Values, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom, Zen. 4 comments.

That was Then, This is Now: Zen Moments #1

That was then, this is now: It is very simple, yet a very profound statement (like all things Zen, this is the beauty of Zen). Rejoice in the way things are today without missing the good old times. Often people have a hangover of the past, they paint quite a rosy picture of the life they had (even though they might have cribbed n complained about that very life when it was happening). But we should realize that everything has it’s time n place. There’s a time for birth, a time to grow & time to die. Everything happens in its own perfect timing. A few years back I had a full-fledged career, a busy routine, good income & lots of money at my disposal. Now I am a home-maker & though those things are no longer there, their absence has created room for new type of experiences: more simple, more serene. Now money might be less but time to reflect on my thoughts n mysteries of life is more. Right now I’m enjoying this placid life. I can’t dream of having it otherwise. Though I’ve to do some mundane chores like cooking n cleaning, something that couldn’t have been even thinkable when I was a studious student & a busy professional. Often people ask me which is better, the professional life or the life of a home-maker & don’t I miss that so-called high life??I always say ‘That was then & this is now’

January 23, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Buddhism, Happiness, My lifestyle, My Values, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom. 5 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #10: Finding Joy in Chopping Wood & Carrying Water!

There is a Zen saying, “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” What’s the difference? The tasks are the same & yet different, ‘cos of a change in how we view them!!

Before enlightenment (in our context while we are still running the Rat Race; Quitting the Rat Race is nothing short of Enlightenment!!!) chopping wood & carrying water seem boring & mundane. We resent doing that…we do it grudgingly while our mind craves for excitement. We’d rather be living a high life, seeking thrills & excitement, planning our next purchase, next promotion, & impressing people with our shiny possessions. There is a huge Gap between reality & expectation & our mind is under constant stress.

After Enlightenment we start appreciating the beauty of mundane stuff. We perform the task of chopping wood & carrying water with Zen like ease & peace, basking in the sun & appreciating the miracle of existence & nature. Every breath is filled with peace & Joy. Profound Spiritual Joy can be found in everyday activities. The Chop Wood Carry Water attitude can be applied in the context of our everyday chores & help us realize that there is joy  in doing the laundry, cleaning, paying bills, bathing, cooking, and doing what many people sadly think is boring everyday needs. 

In this day and age where people rush here and there and express a sense of loss, because they feel they need to always be doing something noticable, I think this attitude would be a great healing tool, in teaching people that doing the “chores” of life, can in fact be a relaxing and growth enhancing activity.

This also reflects the attitude of rejoicing the way things are rather than always wanting for something else to happen. Usually our attitude is something like “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”~Abraham Lincoln. We just crave for the things that we don’t have instead of enjoying what has indeed been given to us. 

”The Master sees things as they are,Without trying to control them.He lets them go their own way, And resides at the center of the circle. He/She understands that the Universe is forever out of control, And that trying to dominate eventsGoes against the current of the Tao. Be content with what you have; Rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, The whole world belongs to you.” ~Tao Te Ching.

This is the only meditation I know. 
While I eat, I eat. 
While I walk, I walk. 
And while I feel sleepy, I sleep. 
Whatsoever happens, happens. 
I never interfere.

Bokuju

October 15, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Happiness, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Uncategorized, Wisdom. 4 comments.

Next Page »