As we enter the second week of the New Year, it’s normal to wonder how the rest will pan out.
The soothsayers tell us many interesting things and we can’t help feeling torn between cheer and fear. I’m extremely wary of soothsayers because I’m afraid of falling into an expensive or harmful trap set by some fake masquerading as the real thing. So, is there or was there a real thing? I don’t know. But I cannot wholly shut my mind to the possibility, because a horoscope cast for me by an old south Indian astrologer at my mother’s behest when I was a preteen has proved hair-raisingly true. It’s creepy, how true.
I did not know its contents until years later, when a trusted friend translated its arcane phrases for me, by which time various life-altering events had actually come to pass as written. What did please me, though, was that every blessed star and planet gave me a clean chit for trying to ‘do the right thing’ through serial shipwrecks, despite my many flaws. I suppose one can’t ask for more, really.
If I review what helped me ‘stay on the path’, I find it’s a funny mix of the values upheld by the ‘rationalist liberals’ whom I grew up amidst and ‘Naam’, the ‘name of God’ that I clung to like the proverbial drowning man. The ‘name of God’ seems to translate on the ground into a sense of personal dos and don’ts.
I don’t think it means we are immune to ‘bad’ thoughts. But I think it does mean that we should ‘be aware’ and ‘watch our thoughts’ like vipassana teaches. I have not undergone vipassana myself.
An old friend and legal luminary with a deep belief in ‘Constitutional morality’ attended vipassana courses some years ago and told me how it works. ‘Watch our thoughts’ means, for instance, that when we feel angry we realise that we’re feeling angry but don’t express it violently in everyday situations. Breath control or pranayama is famous for helping with this — it floods the body with oxygen, ups serotonin levels and steadies our nerves. I’ve tried it cautiously and it seems to work most times. I daresay if I were more disciplined, I’d be better at it.
Underlying such useful practices, ‘real religion’ does not seem to mean that we should sweat the small stuff like how we dress, what we eat, how we pray and so on. In my view, that’s personal cultural choice, not deep religion. Rather, ‘Naam’ seems to be about gratitude. As evident in the stories, the one thing that seems to deeply annoy every single god and goddess ever imagined in any culture at any time is ingratitude.
The deities also seem remarkably united on how exactly we’re supposed to express gratitude. One, appreciate the good things we have with deep awareness. Two, express that appreciation through kind words and kind deeds.
So, irrespective of belief and unbelief, it seems we are in a position to plot a personal plan, never mind the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
The views expressed are personal.