All posts filed under: Thoughts

Lessons from Mahabharata: Envy – I

That Duryodhana was driven by envy is known to all. He is also perhaps the best known example of an envious man in the entire epic. His whole life was one long, never ending, rage against his cousins, the Pandavas, who he thought had the better of everything – whether the palace at Indraprastha, whether a beautiful wife in Droupadi, whether in riches, his own “ordinary prosperity” never pleased him, was never enough. That much is well known. What is also known is that if Duryodhana’s envy was like a forest fire, it was Shakuni, his maternal uncle, that kept that fire burning. And we also know that Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana’s blind father was blind to every single fault of his son, turning a literal and figurative blind eye to his son’s faults. But what about Gandhari? When Pandu was living the life of forced bachelorhood, in mortal fear of Sage Kimdama’s curse, he turned to his wife Kunti to beget sons. Kunti had Sage Durvasa’s mantra that she used to summon Yama, who begat Yudhishtra. …

Lessons from Mahabharata: The Leader’s Temperament – A Leadership Masterclass from the Mahabharata

Let’s talk about the role of a CEO and what advice would a board advisor give to an incoming CEO? Yes, this is still about the Mahabharta, but we are going to take a detour before getting there. To strive to maximize shareholder value, to watch out for market trends and unforeseen macroeconomic headwinds, to hire the best, to not ignore the advice of advisors, to put down indiscipline with a firm hand, to be approachable yet not play favourites, and so on. This is the basic ingredient from which tens of thousands of management books, seminars, articles, and more are churned out each year. In a modern context, while the use of the word “king” may be anachronistic, the basic import of the the Raj-dharma parva of the Mahabharata retains much of its value and relevance. If you substitute the word “king” with “chief minister” or “prime minister”, or with “CEO” or “Managing Director”, the advice given to the king then could very well be applied to the leaders of today. When asked by …

The Garland of Knowledge: A glimpse into Brahmajñānāvalīmālā of Adi Shankaracharya

||Śrī Gurubhyo Namaḥ|| This short work of Brahmajñānāvalīmālā by Adi Shankaracharya is a heartfelt pouring of a Jivanmukta, who is eternally established in the bliss of Atman. This song of the mukta, aptly titled “a garland of long lines of knowledge of Brahman” is an inspiring call to all people to renounce attachments and become mumukshus [1] in the pursuit of brahma-jnana, which alone truly frees an individual. This work also serves as a tool of nidhidhyasa [2] for the mumukshus, who are striving hard to realize their innermost Self. While a detailed examination of the text is beyond the scope of this article, let us try to get a glimpse  of the beauty and depth of this composition. Examining in detail just the opening verse of the text provides an insight into the intellectual and spiritual stature of the revered Acharya. सुकृत् श्रवणमात्रेण ब्रह्मज्ञानं यतो भवेत्‌ । ब्रह्मज्ञानावलीमाला सर्वेषां मोक्षसिद्धये ॥ १ ॥ sakṛt śravaṇamātreṇa brahmajñānaṃ yato bhavet‌ । brahmajñānāvalīmālā sarveṣāṃ mokṣasiddhaye ॥ 1 ॥ Meaning: Just by hearing (श्रवणमात्रेण) which even once (सुकृत्), …

Lessons From Mahabharata – Stri Parva and Gandhari’s Curse

How do you curse God, and do it justifiably so? What is the arc of the geometry of rage? Does it rise up into a crescendo and then subside after it has found an outlet? Or does it ebb and flow, crest and trough? How does one react to being cursed? How would God react to such a curse? As curses go, there are many instances in the Puranas of gods being cursed. Indra is perhaps in the unfortunate position of being the recipient of the most curses. Even Vishnu was cursed by Narada to be born as a human. Dharma was cursed, and was born as Vidura. The Vasus were cursed and had to be born as the sons of Ganga. But a god being cursed? Gandhari cursing Krishna is possibly one without parallel. Not only did Gandhari curse Krishna, she cursed his entire tribe, the race of the Yadavas. In it, there are several lessons to be learned. Mahabharata, Volume 5, Gorakhpur Gita Press Gandhari’s rage rose when she met Bhima after the …

Lessons from Mahabharata – The Mother Who Abandoned Her Son, and the Mother Who Did Not

Kunti abandoned her first-born son, Karna, almost immediately after birth. Gandhari aborted her first foetus out of frustration. There-in lies a tale of two mothers. Kunti did not abort Karna. Perhaps the swiftness with which Karna was born after her union with Lord Surya did not afford her the opportunity, or perhaps she did not want to, since feticide was an abominable crime. In any case, what the Mahabharata tells us that she did not keep this child. She abandoned him, and the infant was found by the charioteer and raised by his wife, Radha, as their own son. Kunti went on to marry the Kuru king, Pandu, becoming the mother of the five Pandavas. Three of the sons were hers, and two were Madri’s. Had she allowed herself to be stained with the stigma of unwed motherhood, perhaps there would not have been a Kunti as we know her. She would not have been even a footnote in the Mahabharata. What happened after Kunti abandoned Karna? He grew up to become a warrior, a …

An Ode to Orchha

Lord Ram’s ruling of Ayodhya as a king is the ultimate example of an ideal ruler. People of India yearn and strive for such a governance. At the same time I cannot stop myself from mentioning that Mata Sita was also an ideal queen who left the palace and the kingdom to save her husband the king from a धर्म संकट and made a sacrifice for the people of Ayodhya. There is one more place in India where the people consider and worship lord Ram as their king. The forts, palaces, temples and chhatris (cenotaphs) in this town were an inspiration for Edwin Lutyens to design New Delhi. Can you guess which place is this? It is the one time capital of the Suryavanshi Bundela Rajput kings – Orchha, in Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh situated around 18 kms from Jhansi. Bundela Rajput’s reign in northern India (today’s southern Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh region) began in the 14th century and that is why this region came to be known as Bundelkhand. When Raja …

Vikasa: An Indic Youth Leadership Retreat

Swami Vivekananda was right when we said “Supreme value of youth period is incalculable and indescribable. The way in which you utilize this period will decide the nature of coming years that lie ahead of you. Your happiness, your success, your honor and your good name all depend upon the way in which you live now, in this present period. Remember this. This wonderful period of the first state of your life is related to you as the soft wet clay in the hands of the potter”. Youth across the world are filled with energy and enthusiasm. They also have a lot of questions, right from mundane aspects of life to existential ones. When encouraged and engaged with properly, these questions have the potential to transform into a deeper quest. Their energy and enthusiasm when put to the right use can transform the lives of the individual, the society, and nation at large. Adopting the right frameworks and worldviews can help them bring about this transformation. What they need are tools that help them act …

Pragmatics of The Yoga Sutra

I consider myself extremely fortunate to study one of the most fascinating Indian texts – Yoga Sutras from some of the greatest teachers like Yogaacharya Krishnamacharya and Desikachar. Not once, but almost 5 times did I study the texts with them. Of course, my hunger did not stop there, and I started integrating the Yoga Sutras in my inner process work and learning theater methodology along with Prof.Pulin Garg and Desikachar. However, it was only 8-10 years back that my friends Saraswathi and Vani requested me to teach the Yoga Sutras, because only a few of us who learnt directly from Desikachar and Krishnamacharya are left. So, that is when I went back to teaching the Yoga Sutra. We went through the whole of the Yoga Sutra four sessions of 4 days each covering 1 chapter at a time. Now it is a second round of teaching the Yoga Sutra in detail, each time I visit it, it allows me to probe deeper into the psyche of the human mind. Here I go further into …

What is a Lingam?

We are all aware about Yogacharya T.Krishnamacharya being a pioneer in using yoga (specifically asana and pranayama) for therapy and well-being. But little did we know that he was a great scholar of our sacred knowledge and traditions. One of his long-standing students Raghu Ananthanarayanan has put together an interesting note about why and how the Lingam is mis-represented as a sexual symbol. He has used the device of an innocent conversation between a young, curious child, Chiku (Gayatri Iyer), and an elderly teacher Rita (Raghu), just like the dialogues that used to take place between student and teachers at ashrams. In my discussions, I learnt how symbols of our Hindu culture have been misinterpreted for long and once you know the real meaning, you can only marvel at the profundity of the entire meaning and how it is part of the larger divine order. Chiku: What is a lingam? Rita: Nice question. What is this? _________ (a small straight line) Chiku: That’s a straight line Rita: What is this? O (a circle) Chiku: Oh, …

Puja and Bhakti – An Exploration

We are all aware about Yogacharya T.Krishnamacharya being a pioneer in using yoga (specifically asana and pranayama) for therapy and well-being. But little did we know that he was a great scholar of our sacred knowledge and traditions. One of his long-standing students Raghu Ananthanarayanan has put together an interesting note about what is meant by pUjA and why do so many people do it? He has used the device of an innocent conversation between a young, curious child, Chiku who is Gayatri Iyer, and an elderly teacher Rita, just like the dialogues that used to take place between student and teachers at ashrams. In my discussions with Raghu who is Rita in the writings, I learnt how symbols and rituals of our Hindu culture have been misinterpreted for long and once you know the real meaning, you can only marvel at the profundity of the entire meaning and how it is part of the larger divine order. Chiku: I have been seeing my mother pray and do puja or rituals in the mornings and …