Has Religion become a business ?

Every one of us has the freedom to choose our religion in a democratic state. We may be Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims or Buddhists. In my view, all religions lead us to the same destination. The routes could be different but the goal post is the same. Each religion teaches you multiple ways of attaining your goal. At every stage of life, you realise that you have to improve a lot to reach your ultimate station in life.

Am I religious ? I am not sure. My definitions of religion is ” To be a better human being, every day I live, enjoying myself and making life enjoyable for everyone around me in whatever ways I can.” I am a Hindu and proud to be so. Hinduism is one of the most liberal religions in the world. It gives you alternative paths and allows you to choose what best suits you. It neither imposes any rituals on you nor directs your behaviour or actions. The same may be true for most modern religions of the world.

However, I do believe that “Religion” has become a business in the world today. The causes for this belief could be life style and stress of people today. We are constantly competing in the world and want the best of everything around us with minimum of efforts. We are in a rat race and never satisfied with what we have. Our greed invariably exceeds our need. This leads to unavoidable stress and then we fall prey to religious leaders who exploit this emotional vacuum in us.

We tread on a dangerous path out of our own choice. We want to conquer the world before anyone else. We are willing to sacrifice our health and life to achieve our goals. Sometimes, we may be willing to compromise on our values to realise our dreams. This leads to degeneration of life and also may impact our health. It not only makes us physically vulnerable but emotionally too.

While technology today could help us detect and cure physical illness, it may not be able to cure our emotional strain. We then turn to our family and friends for emotional support. When friends and family do not have the time or patience , we go to the religious gurus. They could be from any religion you follow. All religious gurus tend to exploit the situation we are in and make this their business.

We are willing to spend a lot of money to get rid of this emotional trauma. We do not realise that we are responsible for putting ourselves in this situation. We cannot blame the world or our family, friends or colleagues for putting ourselves in this quandary. Then we approach a religious guru. Most religious leaders today are running religion like a business. They look at how to exploit your weakness into monetary gain for themselves.

These are the actions, which makes me lose respect for the religious leaders. I sometimes feel bad even visiting temples or other religious places because the leaders create an atmosphere of greed in these spiritual places. Anything and everything can be monetised. You can have a darshan of God faster by paying more money. We forget that all humans are equal in front of God. We are happy to flaunt our money to get closer access to God or their forms.

If I reflect, I would like to blame myself for this state of affairs. We, as individuals have through our actions made religion a business. Our greed is exceeding our need and thus leading to religious exploitation. We start believing that we can busy anything and everything in life through money. The day we realise that money cannot buy everything in life and least so happiness, we may be better off.

As in the photo above, we have to restore the sanctity of religion by our own actions in every day life.

It is time to reflect ? What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Park & Purpose

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Each of us may have a different purpose to visit a park. Some of us go to the park to exercise. It could be a walk, jog or practise in an open gym as in the photo above. While others may go to play or just to relax and rejuvenate themselves.

So each of us may have a different goal to visit a park and it is fine. I have been visiting a park for the last seven years for my morning and evening walks. Apart from walking, it is chat time with my spouse. We walk together and exchange our thoughts, beliefs and stories as we have experienced the previous day.

As we stroll around the park, we can see kids playing and sharing joy. Kids do not come to the park to maintain their fitness. It is sheer entertainment for them and that is the way it should be. They may be looking forward to meeting their friends and teasing each other after a hard day at school.

On the other end, we see young adults meeting and mating at the park. It’s a beautiful park along the sea shore and ideal locale for romance. So as the sun sets, we can see lovers in full glory. They are oblivious of the world around them and that is how all of us have experienced love as we grew up as adolescents and young adults.

Then we see senior citizens strolling around the park in groups. They play a game of housie, have some snacks together and share their stories with each other. The park is a place to meet and seek good company for them. Their world may be lonely at home and hence the park provides an ideal place for socialising.

As you go around the park for your walk, you meet people from different age groups and in different colours and costumes. It is fun to admire the energy and enthusiasm of different groups. Of course, you also meet people who have entered the park with no stated purpose. They may be just admiring nature or enjoying the sunset all alone and why not.

Another interesting dimension is that a public park brings people from all religions, caste, creed, nationalities and social status together. There is no discrimination and each one has the complete freedom to enjoy the park the way she or he desires to. Even observing people of diversity in the park is great fun.

I am not sure even a religious institution like a temple, church or mosque can provide you with such a beautiful social setting. It is indeed a gift of nature that a park brings people together with no boundaries or discriminations.

Let the parks bloom and all people visiting them fulfil their purposes.

S Ramesh Shankar

Relearning from childhood…

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Learning is a life long journey. I was sitting with my grandson, who is 7 years old. He asked me if I knew how to use Instagram on my phone. I said yes. He asked me if I could take a photo of his with the whiskers of a rabbit. I told him that I did know how to do it. He readily agreed to teach me.

He advised me to open the app on my phone. He then showed me as to how change the setting on the phone and then take a selfie as in the photo above. I was quite stunned. It was great learning to use a mobile app from a 7 year old.

As children, we are inquisitive and curious. We learn continually by observing others and things around us. When I asked him as to how did he learn it – he said that he saw my son doing the same on his phone. As we grow up in life, we possibly forget to be curious. Our inquisitiveness is buried within us. We feel shy to ask questions and thereby our learning retards.

It is time to look back and learn from childhood. If we cannot turn the clock back, we can observe young kids around us and learn from them. Another incident made me realise how simple observation can be of great learning value. My grand son was at home for his school vacation. We were playing with each other. Then he wanted to download a few games on my iPad.

I gave him my iPad and enquired which games he would like download. He glanced through the app and shortlisted a few. When I was about to download, he told not to do so. He informed me that every app has a preview. We should preview the game and only if it is interesting, we should download the app. It would otherwise be waste of money. I could not believe that a young kid of 7 years could be so knowledgable on how to carefully download game apps from the internet without wasting money.

To be honest I was not aware of it. This helps learn an important lesson in life. We all are good learners as kids. We observer everything around us and learn. We do not hesitate to ask questions when in doubt. As we grow up our observations skills fades away and hence may be our learning ability also diminishes. We are scared of asking questions when we do not know so as to hide our ignorance rather than learn from others who know.

It is time to reflect. It is time rekindle the child in us. It is time ask questions of curiosity from everyone around us including kids. It is never too late to change. It is also never too late to unlearn, learn and relearn.

Time to restart is today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Living on the Edge…

Life is like living on the edge today. We can neither rely on our past nor predict the future. The life cycle of changes were in years then reduced to months , hours and may be now it is in minutes. We are not sure what is likely to happen the very next minute in our lives. No part of the world seems safe for human living. No phase of life is stable and predictable.

Let us examine life from different prisms and different stages. Today we cannot even predict when a child is likely to be born. Of course, in the past also it was true. But, today with all the advancement of technology, the doctors generally give a likely week and not an exact date. Inspite of all the tests possible the doctors are not sure if the birth of the kid will be normal or through a c section. The life of the mother and the kid is fragile till birth and may be till they stabilise after a few months.

Lets move the next stage of a student. The admission into class 1 has become the most difficult in most metropolitan cities in India. Parents run around in search of a school and in most situations do not have a choice but are compelled to admit their child in the school where they get admission rather than the school where they want their child to study. They commit to visit all temples, mosques and churches in their mind if their child does get admitted in any school.

In the next stage, the kid passes out of school and we cannot be sure where the child can pursue further studies. The college admission process is also a rat race and has many unpredictable factors. Assuming the child is able to pass out college in flying colours and wants to pursue her master’s course in a specialised field, the challenges are similar. Even after getting a post graduate degree in their preferred subject, most students cannot be sure of their career choice.

Life is full of uncertainties and it does not end here. As an adult enters an organisation, he may be believe that his life will be stable and predictable. This may no longer to be true. The organisation you join may be taken over and there could be restructuring and you may be declared redundant and lose your job in a few years. The market may go into recession and everything may look gloomy all around you.

If we believe that we have a job and will get married to a partner of our choice and life may turn positive may not be true. Today, young couples have independent aspirations, beliefs and values. Neither of the two are wiling to compromise on their priorities. This may lead to a divorce much earlier then they would believe it could happen. So, then life begins all over again for both the partners.

Assuming, one has got over this phase of life and you have settled down with your partner does not guarantee peace of mind. The performance and stress anxieties are making couples lonely even in a crowd. This is leading to childless couples and other marital discords. If we are able to get over it and have a child and bring up the kid as per our dreams, life’s challenges begins all over again.

All the above unpredictabilities of life also give us a plethora of opportunities. We can be the best student in the class and then every school and college will like to admit us. We may excel in sports or arts and again academic institutions are willing to give us a chance. If we are the best in whatever we do at work, no employer would like to give us the pink slip even in the worst market conditions.

If we are an affectionate and empathetic spouse, every partner will dream to live with us and have kids and live happily there after. Life will continue to be full of uncertainties and unpredictable realities. It is up to us to be the best in everything we do and be resilient, adaptable and patient. No force on earth can ever make a world class sportsperson give up in any sport. So is life. If we believe in ourselves and our capabilities and never give up, we will always be a winner in life.

As in the photo above, our life is like the birds on the lake. We do not know where we will land the next minute in our lives.

Let us not give up even before trying. We have to remember that only the best will survive in an ever competitive world.

S Ramesh Shankar

Moods & Modes

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We go through different moods and through different modes. Our moods could be determined by our attitude and also that of others. As in the photo above, a kid can keep you energised right through the day with his playfulness and spontaneity.

A mother could teach you lessons of selflessness through her actions every day. She does everything at home and is the ultimate caregiver. She may then spend a tough day at work and yet never forget to care for her family. Her moods are not impacted by her pressures at work alone but her selfless nature to give more than she gets.

Most of us conveniently blame the environment around us for our moods. We believe the mode determines our moods. If we have a challenging day at work or our boss is upset with us, we pass it on to our spouse or kids. We do not realise that they may also have had a tough day at school or work and have equal impact ot mode on their moods.

I have tried to examine the cause and effect and moods and mode. While it may appear logical to relate a mode to the state of the mood, in reality it may be the other way around. After a lot of reflection I have come to the conclusion that I alone am responsible for my moods right through the day.

I may conveniently pass on the cause of my bad mood to my family or colleagues at work. It is possible that a family member or a colleague at work may have spoilt your mood by their bad mode. But it is up to us to keep our cool and maintain our mood. This may easier said than lived.

However, on deep reflection I have realised that the really good people are not impacted by the mode of others. They keep a happy mood all the time. Their attitude to life makes all the difference. They make you realise that to be in a good mood or bad mood is more dependant on ourselves than other people around us.

We have start each day with the belief that this is the best day of my life. We have to grateful to God and all the people around ourselves to have helped us where we are. If we live life with this attitude, I believe our mood will always be positive. As I said earlier, it may be more difficult to practise than write about it. But I have met real people in my life who live it every day.

Time to change is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

What others’ see, we don’t ?

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We need to continue to explore to see the unseen. A child may remind us of something in front of us, which we see every day but have not really observed. We sometimes miss the obvious and its not exclusive to us. All humans experience this phenomenon. This may be because we perceive things around us differently and hence tend to see what we perceive. After all perception is reality.

I have experienced this phenomena right through my life at all stages. As a kid, you tend to focus on things that interests you. You are oblivious of all other things around you. Then in the youth, we get influenced by your friends more than your family. This makes us look at things which excite us. As we move to adulthood, we tend to put a value to everything around us. We value things which we perceive as worthwhile to us.

It may be interesting to share some examples in this regard. We may be attempting to solve a puzzle for hours without any success. A kid may come in and crack it in a few seconds. We are perplexed. We wonder what we could not see which the child could do in seconds. As we grow up in life, logic takes over our lives. We forget our gut and our feelings. A child is more perceptible than an adult because they are always expressing themselves in emotions. They are not bothered how others are going to perceive them. We are worried how the stereo typed society will view us. Hence our behaviour is determined by the people around us rather than what we want to do.

It is sometimes interesting to note that a child can create multiple options within minutes. I was recently with my grand son who is 7 years old and he could pose in ten different ways within a matter of a few minutes. I might have struggled to even think of the possibilities before I could pose for similar photographs. I would have evaluated how others would perceive me when I am seen posing in such photos. That would have determined my behaviour. We are inhibited by our own limitations.

I have often seen that when I work with a group of young millennials at work, they can come up with multiple whacky options on any issue. The experienced employees tend to become prisoners of our past experience. We are worried that it did not work in the past and hence may not work in the future. We are bothered how are seniors will react to a crazy idea. A young employee is open, quick and spontaneous.

As in the photo above, the two langurs could spot a tiger nearby and cautioned us although we as tourists, who were looking for the elusive tiger could not spot it on our own. This happens in real life too. We do not see what others are able to see in every day life. It is either because of perceptions or because of conditioning of the mind. In a jungle, the langurs are the first to spot danger of a tiger and alerts all living being around them of a possible attack.

In reality, life is not different. We tend to see things which we want to see. It may be a good idea to challenge ourselves by the people around us. They can help us to see things, which we miss out in life. The time to explore the unseen is now. It is never too late to learn.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Art of weaving…

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We need to learn a lot in life from nature. One of the things I have admired in nature is the ability of birds to weave their own nests. Most of them do not have the resources near them but they still succeed. They gather resources from wherever it is available without cribbing about its non-availability. They then gather bit by bit and weave their nest in right earnest. Their nest is pulled down by greedy humans and other animals around them but they do not give up.

On the other hand, what do we do as human beings ? We find every excuse under the sign to complain. If at home, we blame our parents for discrimination and try to avoid doing any work at home. At school, we complain to our teachers of lack of time to do our home work or any projects or assignments. At work, we innovate ingenious reasons to delay a project or not deliver our commitments on time.

If we are willing to learn from the birds around us, we can weave our life to success. We will never crib about resources or lack of it. We will always find a way to locate alternate ways to solve an issue. We will garner the support of every member of our team to support us to succeed. We will share success and failure with equal measure. We will collaborate to excel. We will achieve our goal irrespective of the circumstances or the environment around us.

Another important lesson we can learn from the birds is to never give up. I have seen the birds’ nest is destroyed by insensitive humans or even by the travails of nature. The birds are not wasting their time in finding out why it happened and who can be held responsible ? They seem to focus on rebuilding their nest so that they are ready for the future. We tend to focus on fixing the blame rather than garnering our energy to prepare for the future. What is the use of crying over spilt milk is the message the birds give us loud and clear. Isn’t it worthier to spend time to find new sources of milk for ourselves.

Another dimension of learning from the art of weaving is that every problem in life may not have the same solution. No two birds build the same type of nest. Every bird weaves a nest, which will best protect its offspring’s from the travails of nature. It also knows the way nature is likely to behave and hence reinforces the nest with necessary materials to support it. Life is no different. Every challenge in life is different and we need to be creative to finding an innovative way to solve it. We need to course correct our solution mid way as the dimensions of the challenge changes along with way.

As in the photo above, the honey bees are another fascinating creature to teach us the art of weaving. Their honey combs are one of the most well designed under the sun. They are built to ensure maximum safety and there is clear division of labour. We can learn from the honey bees how to optimally use resources to build our life’s nest. We need to learn to benefit from the strengths of each team member so that the collective output is the best we can achieve in life. It is not worthwhile to trying everything all alone.

Life is a complex phenomenon. We need to learn to weave our life like the birds beautifully do every day. We need to be creative, collaborative and never give up irrespective of multiple failures. This is the learning birds give us. We need to grab it with both hands and make the best utilisation of limited resources available to us. We need not complain as God has given enough for all to live, survive and grow.

Lets learn the ‘the art of weaving life” from the birds around us.

S Ramesh Shankar