Mumbai and ego

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Mumbai is a unique city. I was talking to a friend of mine and had a eureka moment. There is a relationship between Mumbai and ego. One can learn a lesson or two on spirituality from Mumbai.

Ego puts itself at center and everything – including the world – around itself. Similar thing happens in Mumbai. Geographically Mumbai is in length, unlike many other cities. There is no way you can be in center of the city if you are in a corner.

Map of Mumbai, Mumbai and egoMumbai has three railway lines – Central, Harbor and Western. Western line is of affluent people, Central line people feel they are in the center of city. Harbor line is of Navi Mumbai, one of the largest planned city in the world.

Western line is very crowded, at times if you are stuck in traffic on western express highway you are immobile for an hour or so. When you talk to people of Western line, you will hear oh “western” is far better. It is centrally located, I get everything in my locality. Standard of living are simply incomparable with rest of Mumbai.

Similar logic you get when you talk to people of central line. They will say trains run fastest on our line, eastern express highway is really a highway. We are centrally located and can reach anywhere easily. When you talk to people living on harbor line you will hear almost similar good reasons to be on harbor line. It is far more planned has a lot of space, wide roads and planned neighborhood unlike mainland Mumbai. Standard of living are far better than any other part of Mumbai – at least we have some space to live at home. These points are mostly by those who live in Navi Mumbai.

Our ego also works in the same manner. We are centrally located, everything is centered around me. Ego tends to look at sunny side of self and possibly shortcomings of others.

Whether you talk to a person living in Borivali (Western), Bhandoop (Central) or Chembur (harbor). Borivali is in north – similarly Bhandoop or Chembur. This is a unique learning you have from Mumbai. You consider yourself as the center and whole world is circling around you irrespective of whether it is so. It is like Shashi Throor hidden in all of us.

Ego and Mumbai are one to one mapping, both of these show us how our mind manipulates us. We need to stop manipulation of self by the self.

From spoiled trouser to organization culture

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It happened a couple of years back when I was on vacation. I received an invitation for speaker engagement over a weekend. Who take formals on vacation? It was an eleventh hour request from a very respected business association on organization culture and innovation. I could not reject that invitation. I borrowed a trouser from my friend for attending this event.

While washing the borrowed trouser, it was spoiled by color of my father’s trouser. I was on vacations and markets were closed as weekly closure. I had no choice but to wear this borrowed trouser for this presentation. On a lighter note – I am not such a bad friend who will borrow your cloths and spoil them ;). I do not do such things often.

Since the presentation was on a short notice, I had been thinking for examples on my toes. This peculiar situation helped me understand a trait of organization culture. In fact I used this to make a point about organizational culture as well as my weird dressing; yes I wore that trouser for presentation.

Organization culture

For explanation let me call these trousers – borrowed trouser as T1 and my father’s trouser as T2.

The original color of T2 was washed away easily. However; when the same color stuck on T1 the color did not wash that easily. I had no choice but to wear the spoiled pant – T1. My father’s trouser – T2 was not my size. Well what I learnt about organizational culture from this incident was this –

  1. Building a good organization culture takes time and this cultural habit needs to stick with the organization. As the color should have stuck to the trouser T2.
  2. If the activity of culture building is not taken seriously, the wrong habits may stick more often than the right habits. Wrong habit here relates to the color on T2 that spoiled the borrowed trouser T1. The bad habits leave a bad impression, make amendment difficult, time consuming and in worst case impossible.

Right organization culture is very important for any organization, but it does not get built overnight. Once the culture is built, it is difficult to change it.

If the color on the trouser T2 were strong, it would not have spoiled the borrowed trouser T1. It is easy to mold new employees to the organization culture. It is possible for new employees to get molded to the existing organization culture like my borrowed trouser T1 got spoiled.

If an organization wants to maintain certain culture it has to depict this culture everywhere in its dealings. Be it treating its employees, clients, vendors and the whole society. The way an organization executes its business –operations, policies, analytical thinking, innovation and following laws of the land et al sets the tone.

Coming back to the trousers, it was later impossible to wash away the spot of colors on T1. I did two things –

  1. Bought a new trouser for my friends
  2. I got trouser T1 colored in dark color. Trouser became like new, I gave it back to my friend.

Alas! this is not possible for an organization.

Learning

Just imagine had the trouser T1 been an organization, what would have been the situation, impact and performance of the company. I was in an easy situation, solution was quick and effective. Imagine the management of the organization if they get into a bad organizational culture, it won’t be that easy to change the culture.

Paint employee in the organization cultureIt is said that old habits die hard. It is better to form good habits in the start itself. However, it is never too late, sometimes organization needs to make tough choices, change is always fought by the established norms, and therefore it becomes difficult to bring change. If senior management wants the change to become a norm they need to lead by example. Say for example if management wants to inculcate data driven culture in organization, management has to make it clear to everyone – “every decision should be backed by data, no decision will be made by gut feel or random idea”.

Bottom line for startups and entrepreneurs – if you color trouser T2 well, trouser T1 wont be get spoiled. If you take care of the organization culture from the start it is easy to maintain it.

Image sourcehttp://www.actiongroup.com.ar/cambio-cultural/

Thanks to Nilesh Yeram, my colleague who suggested using the above image.

Originally I have published this article on LinkedIn here, this article is modified here.

Guru poornima

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I have had privilege of meeting at least three enlightened masters in my life (until now), mentors and coaches. Some of the mentors may be enlightened masters and I am not aware about those. However, rest three I am sure – Sai Kaka, Dada ji and Guruji. It is difficult to have very close day-to-day meeting with the enlightened masters. The mentors have a special place they guide, encourage, handhold, and challenge, I have been fortunate that I have a long list of mentors.

I received a wonderful story on whatsapp “Importance of Guru” or mentor or coach in life.  Without much ado here is this wonderful story on Guru Poornima.

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Once upon a time, a cow went out to graze in the jungle. Suddenly, she noticed a lion racing towards her. She turned and fled, fearing that at any moment the lion would sink his claws into her. The cow desperately looked for someplace to escape and at last, saw a shallow pond. Barely evading the lion’s reach, she jumped into the pond, and in the heat of the chase, the lion blindly leaped after her.

Sai KakaTo the surprise of them both, the pond was extremely shallow yet filled with deep recesses of mud. After toppling over each other, the cow and the lion found themselves a short distance apart, stuck in the mud up to their necks. Both had their heads above water but were unable to free themselves no matter how much they writhDada Gavanded.

The lion repeatedly snarled at the cow and roared, “I am going to enjoy the sound of crunching your bones between my teeth!”

He thrashed about in fury but soon became fretful as he found no prospect of escape.

The cow thoughtfully laughed as the lion struggled to free himself and asked him, “Do you have a master?”

The lion disdainfully replied, “I am the king of the jungle. Why do you ask me if I have a master? I myself am the master!”

The cow said, “You may be the king of the jungle, but here all your power has failed to save your life.”

“And what about you?” Retorted the lion. “You are going to die here in this mud too!”’

The cow smiled mildly and said, “No, I am not.”

“If even I, the king of the jungle cannot free myself from this mud”, snapped the lion, “Then how can you, an ordinary cow?”

The cow gently replied, “I cannot free myself from this mud, but my master can. When the sun sets and he finds me absent at home, he will come looking for me. Once he finds me, he will raise me up and escort me home sweet home.”

The lion fell silent and coldly glared at the cow.

Soon enough, the sunset and the cow’s master arrived. He immediately recognized the plight she was in and lifted her to safety. As they walked home, the cow and the master both felt renewed gratitude for one another and pitied the lion they both would have been happy to save if only the lion had allowed them.

The cow represents a surrendered heart, the lion represents an egoistic mind, and the master represents the Guru. The mud represents the world, and the chase represents the struggle for existence therein.

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Its good to be independent and not rely on anyone. But don’t take it to an extreme, you always need a partner/coach/mentor who will be always on the lookout for you.

Having them does not mean you are weak, it’s just that you can be stronger with their help.

Intentions

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Once upon a time, there was a woodcutter, Ram. He was hardworking and had been doing woodcutting as a ancestral (family) profession. He was in this business for good about two decades. Ram’s daily schedule was to wake up in morning, get ready and go to the jungle to bring wood for selling in the village market as a fuel. His experience in all these twenty years were mixed, some days he found good wood and buyers with least heckling, other days neither of these.

In old days in India, seeing a saint meditating was a common siting, specially outskirts of town or in jungles. One day a saint arrived in the jungle where Ram used to go for cutting wood. This saint started meditating at an open space under a tree. A couple of days passed, he was in meditation.

Ram happened to cross this place and noticed the saint. Ram kept on cross this area daily for want of good quality wood. He noticed this saint meditating everyday. Ram was extremely impressed with the radiance of this unknown saint. The steady, unfazed and peaceful demeanor used to make Ram’s day calm, monetarily rewarding and merrier. When you’re around enlightened masters, your life changes for good, somehow things start falling in place.

One day, Ram felt that he must help the saint by keeping some food for him. It will help the saint continue practice without wasting his time on searching for food. So he brought honey from nearby apiary, without disturb the beehive much thus avoiding disturbance in the area. Once honey was available, he kept this honey and water near the saint and left for the day.

Saint was in deep meditation, completely unaware of the number of days passed by or someone keeping food for him. How long can you keep ants away from sweet? Ants came soon and rather than being a help; honey became a nightmare. Same evening some mischievous people also crossed this place. These people threw sugarcane sticks at the saint with full intentions to disturb his meditation. Thankfully instead of hitting the saint, these sticks fell nearby. Now, these ants got diverted to the sugarcane stick!

One must look at the intentions behind actions, it is not always the case that someone throwing a stone at you, he/she is likely to hurt you. Someone’s good intentions may be deterrent whereas bad intentions can be a boon.

Have you heard that one must not help caterpillar in it’s metamorphosis to a butterfly or should not break an egg to take chicken out? Good intentions but harmful outcome. Similarly –

It happens occasionally that your colleagues help you. If this assistance does not make you learn, possibly the long term outcome is harmful to you. On the contrary if your colleague does not help you; may be it is good for you because you will learn harder way with mistakes. These mistakes can teach you many ways not to do something, or how to do other new things. Isn’t it? Perspective!

Bad things may not happen to good people. If you feel something is bad in your life, possibly you need to involve yourself in more of good work. My sister – Preeti – told me this story recently, I liked it and so I put it here.

Image source – http://tathaastu.com (via Google search)

Why-Analysis – Karma

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In operations consulting we used to do why-why analysis. It is a method to identify cause of an occurrence. There are other methods also available for doing such analysis. The objective of such different methods is be to find the root cause of some occurrence.

Why this happened? Because of that. Why that happened? because of something else.This why question is asked on the answer of previous question until an actionable cause is identified. Mostly a root cause is reached in maximum of 5 why’s. It is a very commonly used cause and effect analysis tool in operations management.

I watched this video and could relate to karma, our entanglement to karma (Maya) and that root cause analysis technique mentioned above. The lesson here is, one must try to find “The cause of cause”.

Guruji (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) is saying in this video that when you stick at one or lower levels of the cause attribution you do not get to the real cause. On the contrary that entangles you, in Karma, even more.

If we do not perform Why-Why analysis correctly, we get frustrated and the operations do not get improved. Thus, properly performing this analysis will get to the root cause – mostly management. How and why a decision was made which resulted in the issue say for example high inventory or poor quality output. Thus that can help improve operations of the organization.

Similarly when we analyze karma we would reach to the ultimate – the cause of all the causes. Guruji calls it – Shiv tatva in this video.

Karma plays a role everywhere, be it spiritual life or professional. However, doing a why-why analysis on operations is easy on the contrary doing a why-analysis on “the cause of all the causes” is easier said than done.

Perceptions create reality

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What defines something as good or bad, best or worst? Isn’t it all about perceptions? ‘Perception’ this word is made up from a verb “Perceive” which means – to become aware of through the senses. Is “something sensed” by sense organs actually truth? Let us expand the question stem, what is truth? These are some weird questions I had. Our perceptions create our reality. The reality is very relative in that sense.

I had written the brief of this blog in Jan 2017, kept it as a draft. Now when I review the text, it reminds me of a story of The Prayer of the Frog. The book is in two volumes Volume 1 and Volume 2. If I try to elaborate perceptions and reality it would be very long. So read a story from the book, I shall write my longer version of thought some time later. In the mean time, relish this story –

Half full, half empty, possibility thinking, optimism, pessimism… and a fearless heart.
There was a loud knocking in the seeker’s heart. “Who’s there?” asked the frightened seeker.

“It is I, Truth,” came the answer.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said the seeker. “Truth speaks in silence.”

That effectively stopped the knocking—to the seeker’s great relief. What he did not know was that the knocking was produced by the fearful beating of his heart.

The Truth that sets us free is almost always the Truth we would rather not hear. So when we say something isn’t true what we all too frequently mean is: “I do not like it.”

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Our perceptions create our realities, and many of the times we believe these are the “sacred truth” and most of the time, we mean – “I do not like the truth”. Because more often than not – the heart knows yet the mind does not want to believe or accept.

Focus

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It was a carefree weekend, I woke up as usual in early morning and was brushing my teeth. Chirping of birds, how did I miss it everyday? Today, I heard it clearly and with full attention. The thought came in mind again – I don’t even remember hearing this good morning call of birds; everyday.

Is it a distraction from outside or there is some distraction inside? I left this thought as it is. It is difficult for ego to accept that something within can also be a distraction and cause botheration. It means – ego finds it difficult to accept the problem was/is itself / inside.

These thoughts kept on lingering in mind. After two weeks of these thoughts, this Sunday I went for my regular group meditation practice. At the Art of living center, where we were doing our practice I got the answer. Renu di – the teacher – briefly discussed what is needed –

Wherever your focus is, other things become distraction. If your focus is clear there may not be any distraction. On the contrary you may, once in a while, notice something and with awe observe it and move on to your focused activity. “Distractions are felt if you are not centered”

This Sunday during our session, a generator was switched-ON nearby, naturally it was noisy. However, we all could do our meditation easily. Renu di asked us – how was the session? Almost everyone had a good practice. She further asked – how many of you felt the loud noise was a distraction? It was not a distraction to any one. She added – whenever you are jittery go inside, when outside world distracts you, go inside. If there is anything bothering you observe yourself you will find botheration are when your focus changes.

Life is easy, we complicate it by the concept of Monday blue and Friday fun. Even a Monday can be fun so can any other day. Just listen to the chirping of birds, give mind some rest, focus on what you are doing and life is fun.

Image source – Pixabay – fxxu

Grass grows by itself

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For last couple of years, I have been buying stuff (mostly grocery and vegetables) from where I get a bill (invoice), even if I have to pay a bit more. Reason has been straightforward – I am fine paying more because presumably the one who gives me bill pays tax. It reduces burden on my tax and thus country can improve and prosper. Straightforward logic. However, another thought runs in mind – things are getting automated, be it agriculture or industries. Technology based jobs are likely to get automated too. This will create a scarcity of jobs. We should support roadside vendors otherwise how will they sustain their livelihood.

Next level challenges for Governments and even for private sector will be job creation at grass root. The other thought says possibly there would not be a need of job creation. Things will happens automatically due to automation. On a philosophical level as Ramana uncle keeps on quoting – Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself. ~ Basho. This no one would require to do job, the same possibility suggested by Keynes.

The world thus would be a kind of utopia, we hopefully wont require ruling over the other. It would be a time of soul searching, digging inside doing inner revolution. I strongly believe prosperity of each individual is the best way to reach the Utopian world. Economics, fails at such Utopian world, because where there is scarcity there is demand and supply. However, if everyone is prosperous probably no one will feel wealthy. Feeling of being wealthy at that time would be defined by some other measures – not necessarily by money. Currently too we are on the verge of redefining wealth, money is not what you have in your pockets or home is no more the only wealth. Wealth is – stocks you have, count of zeros in your accounts, may be in future we would look at bitcoins in your electronic wallets.

Possibly, the Buddha was disillusioned by wealth – he was a prince after all, wealthiest of kingdom – when he saw a sick old man, a dead body etc. Likelihood of seeing a Buddha like person is far higher in prosperous economy. India was at peak of its economic, scientific and spiritual knowledge. The world now and in future needs to think about spirituality and economics in same plane. The world we are creating for our coming generations should have growth, livelihood, sustainability and spirituality together. This requires learning a couple of concepts of Buddha’s teachings deeper – i. interdependent co-arising ii. the middle path and iii. righteousness (speech, action, livelihood,efforts, mindfulness, concentration, view and resolve).

I think we need to think beyond jobs creation, wealth, we need to think about a holistic development of human race because the grass grows by itself.

Happy Buddha Purnima, may everyone become The One soon.

Earth day

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Today is Earth day. Actually everyday should be The Earth Day, its ok at least we human have given recognition to earth that one out of the 365 days is celebrated as Earth day. Perhaps we have taken the liberty to pollute earth for 364 days after celebrating one day in the remembrance. If we keep our act as it is currently, the remembrance will soon become “remembrance” only. More precisely worst we wont be there to observe the remembrance either.

Is there something that we can learn from Earth? Many! Just stick to the two here. It gives without any expectations. Thanks to the Earth, every cell in our body is made up of earth. We did not bring anything and would not take anything back with us. Can we learn to reduce our expectations?

It holds us all without any ego that “you exist because of me”. We get into this kind of me, my opinion and my way of living (religion) better than yours faster than we learn to exist on this earth. Humanity is fighting for small little opinions for centuries, its lately that we have realized the value of Earth to at least celebrate the day. In fact this Earth day is a lesson to all of us – that we need to give up our dominion. This image represents it far better than words can.

We believe we are free to take our actions, we forget that the consequences are also there. These consequences are not just for us but for everyone around us. Some of the species are extinct already other few are in line. The whole world is interdependent on each other. If we miss this point we wont exist sooner rather than later. I read it once – If all bees die, humans will die soon too.

Let us celebrate this earth day with respect to the mother earth and to each and every creature on the face of the earth. Otherwise for long we have been the “takers“.

Forget businesses and countries, humans wont survive if we do not learn the lesson of interdependent co-arising. No wonder we need to learn the lessons taught by previous spiritual masters – compassion, Non-attachment, Nonviolence, mindfulness and gratitude.

A Hasidic tale – Prayer

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I have been reading one or the other story of Father Anthony De Mello’s books – The Prayer Of The Frog Vol. I and Prayer of The Frog Vol. II and share the same here occasionally. The books have small and very interesting stories. One of the story I read was on Prayers, here it is –

Late one evening a poor farmer on his way back from the market. He was a religious person and when he found that he has missed his prayer book at home. The worst fear he had was he has misplaced it. This was the most disheartening thing that could happen to this pious and religious person.

The wheel of his cart had come off right in the middle of the woods and it distressed him that this day should pass without his having said his prayers.

With this disappointment, he was worried that he is missing something very important today. So he did something interesting. This is the prayer he made: “I have done something very foolish, Lord. I came away from home this morning without my prayer book and my memory is such that I cannot recite a single prayer without it. So this is what I am going to do: I shall recite the alphabet five times very slowly and you, to whom all prayers are known, can put the letters together to form the prayers I can’t remember,”

And the Lord said to his angels, “Of all the prayers I have heard today, this one was undoubtedly the best because it came from a heart that was simple and sincere.”


I have heard that Jesus said, “The kingdom of the Gods belongs to people who are like child-like.

We all must do our prayers and any other works – personal or professional – with such sincerity and simplicity, isn’t it? Do share your thoughts.