Why read the Bhagavadgita Gita?

“Why read the Bhagavadgita Gita” asked a friend recently.

There are scholars and there are gurus who can answer this best – I thought I would share my personal reasons for dipping into this book every now and then.

How do you live a life of fulfilment and joy in a world you don’t understand? With a body that’s subject to entropy and not really under your control? With a mind that’s chattering away incessantly?

The Gita provides a balm and an understanding into each of these. Feeling upset – there’s a chapter that will set you at ease. Feeling disheartened by someone’s behaviour – there’s stuff that will make the ache go away – or at least reduce it. Down with disease – again some understanding and techniques that will help the body rest (the why me question handled!).

So it’s a path to put you at ease. And what’s more over time it gets you to align these various aspects so you don’t have conflict with yourself (eg – when your intellect suggests you don’t gamble while your emotions are screaming to place the bet!) I guess not having internal conflicts is a gift beyond compare. In the brief moments the conflict disappears (during meditation/ asana/ chanting and watching your breath for instance), life seems truly “at ease”.

This to me is why I return to the book time and again. I have read but a few verses from a few chapters and my understanding is no way perfect and yet the Gita doesn’t expect perfection from you – its benediction is limitless and you can gather its wisdom unto yourself to the extent you can – and more importantly focused on what you need at that moment. If you haven’t tried it yet – I’d recommend you give the book a shot. It’s possible the book will touch your life in a miraculous way as well.

ZATM by Robert Pirsig – a review

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into ValuesZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are some books that will have you applauding the author for piece of magical work – and also widen your thinking horizons significantly. This is one such book. The deeply philosophical content is layered seamlessly into the story – a long motorcycle ride the author undertakes with his son and a few friends. Lots of “aha” moments in between – why do we love new songs only to have the craving die off after a while, when we say something has quality – what do we really mean, what does caring mean – a lot of things. Its a riveting read and I’d recommend many reads (with some time for reflecting on the concepts before continuing). You will certainly begin to see the world afresh.

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I am Pilgrim – Book review

I Am Pilgrim (Pilgrim, #1)I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Its a tome – 750 pages or so. It’s the author’s debut novel. That said, its a very, very good read. The scope is large too – terrorism, a murder mystery, espionage, action in multiple countries – there’s a lot packed in – and is plotted brilliantly by Terry Hayes. Would recommend it highly for your next flight or weekend reading – its sure to make the trip seem short!

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Leading – the Tao Te Ching way!

It’s always beneficial to have our own personal, trusted coach to advice us on our performance anyday. How nice it would be if that trusted leader helped us understand how good a leader we are?

Here’s the Tao Te Ching doing just that – the following two paragraphs are reproduced from Guy Leekley’s lovely translation with just one change – have replaced “Teachers” with “Masters” in the first line:

Our greatest Masters
Are not publicly known;
The next best often
Become famous.

Some with much influence
Become feared and scorned.
If they do not trust,
They are not trusted.

So how does the Master work? Here’s the last paragraph from Steven Mitchell’s very popular and endearing translation:

The Master dosen’t talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
The people say, “Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”

So which leader are you – are you a Master, the good and famous – or the one who is feared (but influential)? And would you like to stay that way?!!

A quick review of an unique book

So my good friend and colleague Dhivakar gifted me a wonderful book the other day – “Search Inside Yourself” by Meng. And knowing Dhivakar, am sure he would want me to share the gift of a review with everyone – so here I go!

The book’s author is a senior googler (google employee number 107 for all of you detail-loving chaps) and deals not with technology but surprise of surprises – – with “mindfulness and meditation”.

Now why would a googler (And a senior one at that) want to write a book on something like this? A few minutes into the book is all it takes to realise that this author is as a different as they come. His official title (self affixed I suspect) is:

The jolly good fellow of google
which nobody will deny

Intrigued you turn the pages and find that that he piloted this program at Google after consulting with multiple-giants like Daniel Goleman (yes we are talking about the EQ guru) and to his delight the googlers just lapped it up. Quite a few very inspiring testimonials from the participants dot the book and such run-a-away success at google has led him to aim for something a little bigger – namely world peace (yeah I know- a little bigger!)) – and this book is an effort by him to help folks such as ourselves who aren’t from the google family access the program and reap benefits. And he gets to enjoy the royalty too for the book. So a win-win really!

OK, let’s get this straight – isn’t this what you are thinking right now – Geek boy, meditation, world peace – that combo’s got to be boring!

Well, let me confirm its patently anything but boring. For one thing the author has a wonderfully self-depreciating sense of humour that ensures you leave every page sporting a grin on your face. To top it he has plenty of cartoons distributed throughout – these poke gentle fun at concepts in his own book – while enlightening you on the side. I did say its a fun read, right?

To round up this post, here are a couple of super takeaways for me – that can you get started right off the bat.

1. He starts off on the premise that “self awareness” is the goods for success. Self awareness is really the art of knowing yourself well – and he calls out some very simple methods to get up and running. “So why is this important again?” you ask.  Because it allows you to catch yourself before doing something unwarranted – if you can catch yourself before bursting out with anger at a colleague (and therefore save all that repentance and guilt that would follow the anger like a shadow!) – it makes life that much better no? Mindfulness meditations are his tools for developing self awareness – these are meditations in which you do simple stuff like experiencing how your body reacts to emotions (so when your fist closes and your somatic clenches – you know you are getting angry – and can quickly step out of the scene before an ugly episode!!) and watching your breath. The exercises take 10 minutes or less at a time – and the value is priceless (yep, just like visa!)

2. The second is the biggie – its his experience that the more “self aware” you become, the more empathy you develop for others (colleagues, families, friends, strangers – everybody). So its a case of buy 1, get one free! And what can empathy do – it can help you win friends, nurture relationships and all-in-all make you the most popular guy or girl on earth. And the more you understand another person, the better you will become as well – a bit of a virtuous circle if you will….

3. Finally, as your meditation deepens- a sense of clarity, tremendous productivity and perpetual inner joy become yours for the experiencing. So as he states in his quaint way – you can have your cake and your promotion too!

If you are one of those who want to try the miracle of meditation but don’t know where to begin, some of these exercises are a great startup point(each taking but a few minutes) and soaking in the abundant-data anecdotes may also convince you of meditation’s value in your everyday life – or at least to give it a try. For the experienced meditators out there, you guys (and girls) may get bigger insights into the why’s behind a few of the practices – and of course gain some good anecdotes to share with your skeptic colleagues (with a “I told you so right – now google agrees!”). Most importantly – novice or guru – you’ll enjoy the read. gentle, wise, fun reads are hard to come by – and this one ticks all the boxes. Convinced already? Why not give it a try and blog your experiences for all of us?

If More trust equals More success, how can we inspire more trust? An amble through the Covey framework

Deepavali – the season of colours, crackers and sweets is here. Its also the season of sharing gratitude and wishing each other well. So here’s wishing each of my readers’ abundant success propelled by the magic potion of TRUST; for it is TRUST that makes the world go round.

So what is trust really? A question which brings me neatly to the topic of this post — this post presents an insightful framework on TRUST from Covey’s wonderful book “The Speed of Trust”. And TRUST as he defines it (and we will see as we move further down this essay) includes not just honesty and such stuff which are nice but don’t produce tangible results- he also includes a multi-dimensional view allowing TRUST to inspire mega- success. So let’s get going already.

Here’s a wonderful picture from him elaborating the framework:

Stephen Covey's framework of TRUST

Stephen Covey’s framework of TRUST

1. Integrity:  He’s talking about congruence — where our thoughts, words and deeds all are integrated. Beings with integrity inspire trust — across fields — of course we all remember Gandhi and Mandela as symbols of integrity who spoke from their heart and walked their talk. But other folks — our young Nobel winner this year (Malala), the most successful financial genius of our times (Warren Buffet), maverick entrepreneur (Elon Musk and Steve Jobs before him) — all of them — when you think about it — are congruent in entirety. Integrity while not visible, holds the very foundation of trust (which is why its depicted by the roots)

2. Intent: Do you think win-win consistently? Do you have the welfare of your client, of your team-members, your peers — whoever it is you are dealing with — covered? If not, others will quickly sense this and wouldn’t be comfortable trusting you. The book has a wonderful example where Warren Buffet closes a deal sans lawyers — because he trusts the other team — and the whole deal gets closed much, much faster. Thats the power of intent at work for you!

3. Capabilities:  TRUST also needs capabilities when you think about it. If I am a good guy at heart, you’ll like me — but will you trust me to run your finances? You’ll want to make sure of my capability here. So upscaling continuously is critical to ensure we stay at the top of the game. When we look at the best sportsmen, this becomes clear. We know they have their hearts in the right place and are focussed on winning — but if they want to represent the best teams and be counted among the elite, they have to continuously train and stay on top of the game. Business is no different.

4. Credibility: Let’s say a friend has a health condition that requires a complicated surgery. A young surgeon has graduated at the top of his class (capability), has a great work ethic and inspires trust in his dealings with the medical fraternity and patients (integrity and intent) — wouldn’t we still hesitate to let him operate if this happened to be his first surgery? That’s detailing how critical credibility can be — a track record that establishes credentials and therefore trust is integral to successful partnerships.

Thats one powerful framework in a wonderfully easy-to-remember picture(needless to say, any errors in interpretation are mine alone too!). The book also details a set of behaviours which enable trust to be built (and even a few tips on regaining lost trust) and has a few questionnaires that help you evaluate and orient yourself to a target – in short it leads you by the hand on the steps toward a world of greater trust. Let me reiterate, this is a life changing book — and written well. Do grab a copy when you get the chance — and in the meantime here’s wishing you success in developing all the four dimensions and becoming the epitome of TRUSt for all those who come in contact with you.