My Reflections: Man and his Religion

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My Reflections: Man and his Religion

A religion is as good as its followers are, and how they behave among themselves as well as in a multi-religion environment.

As you know, the earliest man was living in forests, like other animals. He hunted for food and reproduced like other animals. But in many respects, man turned out a lot superior than other creatures. His brain was endowed with a lot more features than the rest. As a result, he started evolving at a faster pace than the rest. He started making discoveries and inventing things to help himself with life’s basic needs.

To start with, he made stone and later on iron weapons for hunting animals; he made fire for warmth, protection from animals and cooking; afterwards, wheel was devised for transport. Then started a whole chain of discoveries and inventions. Agriculture, i.e., growing food in fields and domesticating animals for milk and other useful purposes brought him to a more comfortable and organized living. Man started living in groups and communities. With that, villages came into existence.

As communities came up and people came into closer everyday contact, a sort of unwritten code of Do’s and Don’ts started evolving to make some order from the chaos.. Together, they were trying to arrive at a perfect, ideal way of living. That ideal way of living, with strong stress on morality, gradually gained currency among the masses and came to be termed as ‘manav dharma’ (human religion). Sense of goodness, virtue, compassion and love became the foundation of the civilized society. Humanity had started taking shape. Morality automatically became the key word. The entire code revolved around good and bad, virtue and sin, and all those things required to make a civilized society. Man was logically evolving, from the barbaric to a civilized society.

Through all that, human greed started playing its dirty role in causing conflicts among people. ‘Might is right’ became the unwritten law. Evils and sins too started growing and raising their head. People in general were put to untold sufferings. In such dire circumstances, when humanity was extremely endangered, sometimes, there arrived on the scene, an extraordinary, benign character who conquered and vanquished  the evil and liberated the virtuous to carry on on their path. The rescued, liberated souls heaved a sigh of relief and were so filled with gratitude and awe at the liberator’s deeds that they started worshiping him and praying to him in any distress thereafter. The liberator became a legend and with the passing time, and came to be worshiped as God.

Thus, the moral code of conduct for the civilized society evolved into a religion which  basically amounts to the ideal way of living. It’s tenets and guidelines teach the communities and believers the art of living in their own distinctive styles. If they are followed in letter and spirit, people are able to live a happy life full of peace and prosperity.

Looking from global point of view, religions appear to be a region-specific phenomenon, and so are their gods. For instance, the Indian sub-continent produced the Hinduism and its various gods, starting with the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh; or the West Asia got its Judaism, Christianity as well as Islam. Later on they spread out all over the world. They had their founding Gods/Prophets in Prophet Moses, Prophet Jesus (Christ) and Prophet Mohammad respectively.

As such, all deities are divine and benign for the masses in general. Hindu deities, according to their belief, were mostly incarnations and manifestations of the supreme God, coming down to earth to accomplish some special purpose. So did the Gods and Prophets of all other religions.

In a multi-religion world, the most pragmatic approach would be to give due respect to all religions and their deities, and pursue the path of evolution each religion shows us – of human love, compassion and peace for all. Then alone can we claim to be true homo sapiens, the best creation of the God, almighty.

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# Ashok Misra

 

6 Tips: How to Practice Vibes Therapy for a Happy Life

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6 Tips: How to Practice Vibes Therapy for a Happy Life

  1. Our thoughts and emotions produce invisible vibes/vibrations which stay in our surroundings for a long time. They could be positive or negative. Whichever kind they are, they subsequently influence our mind and emotions. Positive vibes bring happiness and the negative, misery. We must consciously try to generate positive vibes around us and make our surroundings cheerful, and bubbling with positive energy. But how?
  2. Nature with its flora and fauna seems to be our greatest source of positive energy. We can grow plants and colourful flowers in our homes. If possible, we may place small pots or bouquets inside the room we spend most of our days in. They radiate, with freshness and no wonder if every now and then, we might find ourselves gazing at them.
  3. Birds chirping outside the window too are a mood elevating, rejuvenating sight. One could attract more birds with a bowl of birds’ feed and a small tub of water, placed at a high spot with a bit of greenery.
  4. Music is a time-tested elixer for positive vibes. If you are a performer, nothing better; if not, just be a good listener, connoisseur of tasteful music. There is no dearth of musical contents and appliances now-a-days to fill up your room with soulful, musical vibes.
  5. Good company generates positive, happy vibes. Pick your company from among positive and like-minded people. Avoid the other types. Books too make for a great company, especially of the spiritual and motivational types.
  6. Watch healthy TV programmes, that is, those with entertainment, positive stories, themes and characters. Avoid negative narratives. Also, keep such news bulletins to the minimum which constantly harp over controversial, violent and poisonous contents in shrieking, puffing and panting style day and night, They only shatter your peace of mind.

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# Ashok Misra

 

Quotes n’ Notes: John Keats # My name is writ…

Quote: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” [John Keats]

Notes: Ever heard of a man who, in his lifetime composed his own epitaph message? Here we have one, John Keats, who did exactly that. His well-meaning friends felt he deserved one and thus his own words became a part of the epitaph on his grave, for the posterity to learn about the man and his life. The complete epitaph reads:

“This Grave contains all that was Mortal of a Young English Poet Who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart at the Malicious Power of his Enemies Desired these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone: Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water. 24 February 1821.”

Keats had picked the idea from a 17. century play ‘Philaster‘, which said: “All your better deeds / Shall be in water writ.” Truly, if you write something on water surface, it would instantly vanish.

Hurt by his critics’ adverse, vicious criticisms of his works, Keats’ health had started deteriorating. He was diagnosed tuberculosis and sent to Italy for treatment. But his lungs had decayed beyond repair. On a fateful evening in February, 1821, he told his friend, “I shall die easily, don’t be frightened; Be firm, and thank God it has come.” And then he went to sleep…for ever.

Ironically, overwhelmed by merciless criticism, whatever pessimistic ideas Keats had been harboring about the worth, futility of his works and whole life, were belied after he passed away. Very soon he was among the most popular 18th. century Romantic poets, and till date, holds the position of honor.


# Ashok Misra

My Reflections: On fighting pandemic fears

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My Reflections: On fighting pandemic fears

Fighting deep fears, in itself, is not an easy task. But when it comes to confronting pandemic fears, it seems next to impossible. One recent morning, I was at a grocery store in the neighbourhood. As I was picking things I wanted, I heard the shop keeper, a friendly chap, mumbling something in low voice. He was quite a restless type. When I asked him what it was, he said in a tense voice – “Don’t know if they’d declare a lockdown or not.” I said “why are you so worried over that?” “Bhaiyya, there’s been a Corona death in the area,” and then he went out to describe the victim and the whole case as he had just learnt from the newspaper.

“Oh,” said I, “but the place is quite far from here. Why are you so worried? If administration feels the need, they may declare lockdown or may not. It is for them to worry, we only have to follow orders and take all necessary precautions – masks, sanitizers etc., and do our business normally.” “Bhaiyya I’m too scared. I am always too worried.” He was quite nervous. I tried to calm him down asking him to confine his worries to his own person, his family and well-wishers, and let the world go as it would.

Sadly, this has become the plight of a large majority of people all over the world. Deep seated fears, if not controlled timely, turn into phobias or psychosis which reflect in one’s behavior. They are also a major cause of depression, after which life becomes too miserable. So it is better to act in time. But, the moot point is, what to do, how to do it, and where to start?

At the very outset, one needs to understand the real problem right from the root. One should closely observe and identify one’s debilitating fears. That would give a near correct assessment of the problem, the fears alongwith their root cause, and how to control them. One may learn from external source like books, websites, or even by consulting experts.

However, sometimes the fears happen to be genuine, as the corona fears. If so, they actually caution and try to protect a person from potential threats. But if imagined, they would haunt day and night and reduce him/her to a nervous wreck. So it is crucial to identify them correctly. That done, there comes the action part, the preventive measures and how to undertake them. Some of which can be as under:

  1. Tell yourself, what is not in your powers, has to be accepted. Certain things lie in the domain of concerning organizations/ authorities. Leave them to handle, like the Corona crisis..
  2. Avoid over-stuffing your mind with scary contents from TV, newspapers, social sites etc. They settle down deep into your mind and cause serious psychological issues.
  3. Consciously avoid chatting with negative and depressing type of people. They love to see you unhappy and suffering like them.
  4. Take good care of your health. Have nutritious, immunity boosting diet and keep your body fit through physical exercises.
  5. If there are any serious health issues, like B.P., diabetes, heart, kidney, liver or cancer, take special care of those. Be in constant touch with your physician and have regular investigations.
  6. Take appropriate measures to boost your morale and mental fitness. For that, try to acquire peace of mind through yoga, meditation, workouts etc.
  7. Remember, empty spaces are most likely occupied by evil. Do not leave your mind and heart empty. Keep them reasonably engaged in meaningful activities, especially things that make you happy.
  8. Have faith in Him! Say prayers to your God and fill up your mind with energizing thoughts of Him.

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# Ashok Misra

 

 

 

 

 

6 Tips: Making skill-enhancement your stepping stone to a better life

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6 Tips: Making skill-enhancement your stepping stone to a better life

  1. As you know, Learning is a life-long process. Gaining knowledge about how to do a thing is the basic level, but to do it for better performance requires skill. Ponder over it and try to make it a habit.
  2. Practice makes perfect. We acquire skill and excellence through regular, mindful practice as well as proven wisdom from external sources – human or otherwise. Joining groups, societies and associations of folks with common interests also help a lot.
  3. We require skill enhancement mainly in our core, i.e., job/career areas. Among the most common activities, there are – Advanced courses and trainings; Foreign Language(s) learning; Personality Development & Language Proficiency; Photography etc.
  4. But that is not all.There are myriads other non-vocational areas that concern and interest us. They relate to our special interests, passions and other favourite extra-curriular activities, for example, Creative Writing, Music, Dance, Painting, Sculpture etc. We may go for acquiring knowledge, practice and skill in those too.
  5. Tell yourself, each extra skill we acquire and practice adds to our personality and makes us eligible for higher levels in life. It keeps us updated and in the flow. Besides, such skills are good stress-busters too and bring us joy, contentment and peace.So, they are definitely worth going for, aren’t they?
  6. Remember, skill enhancement in our core area helps us rise, progress in our career and material achievements; in other (non-vocational) areas, it works to enrich the quality of life we live. Isn’t that your stepping stone to a better life?

# Ashok Misra

Quotes n’ Notes # Ruskin Bond # Close to nature

“Live close to nature and you’ll never feel lonely. Don’t drive those sparrows out of your veranda; they won’t hack into your computer.”

# Ruskin Bond           

Notes:                                                      Here, Ruskin Bond, one of India’s greatest and most prolific writers, shares his art of living with his readers and offers a couple of tips. His wisdom emerges from his evergoing romance with nature. Born in Kasauli (Uttarakhand, India), Bond grew up in Jamnagar, Dehradun, Delhi and Shimla and finally found abode in Mussouri, his cherished land of dreams, amidst mountains, forests and their innumerable birds and animals. He stays there all by himself, except of course a couple of helping hands (families).

Must be a lonely soul? Nay! He picked wonderful company quite early in life, that has always been loyal to him. Bond has been in a long, never ending romance with nature. His works amply demonstrate that. There won’t be a single bird nor a stray, wild flower with whom he has not been in daily conversation. Can such a man ever complain of loneliness?

Coming back to sharing his wisdom, his art of living, with readers, Bond here advises his readers to ‘live close to nature.’ If they do that, he says, they would never feel lonely. But he also understands that that is not so easy to practice.There are too many obstacles put up by modern life-style. He names ‘computer’ as an example or symbol.

What he means to say is that one should not upset the natural life, its flora and fauna, all around and try instead to be a part of the larger family. Bond suggests not to ‘drive sparrows out of your verandah,’ like some stranger. He tells not to suspect that they would hack your computer and play havoc with your usual life. Welcoming them, allowing them the space and relishing their simple movements would certainly bring cheer to your day. That is what living close to nature can offer you – a loneliness-free, happy and long life!


# Ashok Misra

Watching the Birdie Theatre

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Watching the Birdie Theatre 

Early risers usually don’t have to set a mobile alarm to wake them up. Nature especially provides them with its own morning alarm device – the birds. Yes, the cock has been man’s age-old wake-up caller. Today, if cocks are no longer heard in most urban areas, there are flocks of various other birds doing the job collectively, sparrows  being among the most regular callers. They punctually arrive with their chirpy ‘good morning’ message.

Waking up apart, birds are great fun, indeed a blessing, to have around in the early hours. If one is able to shake the sleep off soon after, and there is no binding schedule to rush for, sparing a small precious slot for birds could be a happy investment. It is indeed a treat to coolly watch sparrows, mynahs, bulbuls etc. performing their acts, through your open window amidst the morning breeze. I am saying this because I myself fell into their trap some time ago.

Last summer, touched by a Save Sparrow Campaign run by birds lovers and various NGO’s, my wife started placing a small wooden bowl of water for thirsty birds on our boundary wall. Our compound has a thick Jasmine vine in one corner and a large Harsingar in the other. So it happens to be quite a cool corner, especially for birds. Some even make their nests and lays eggs in the branches.

Soon, many birds, especially sparrows started visiting the mini pond all day long. One morning, having tea with biscuits in my room, I thought of sharing those with the feathered visitors, for a change. I crushed a couple of biscuits and served them on in an earthen plate (big diya).

With that, a new scene started. One sparrow came down, took a few dips of water at the tub, brushed its beak against the brim, then hopped up to the the biscuit plate. It took a couple of picks and flew away to devour at some distance. It was immediately followed by the next and the next and the next, and soon there was a queue of sorts chirping and waiting for their turn.

That day, I learnt that the birds too had a system of their own. They would come chirping merrily, sit for a while, go to the water tub and have a couple of dips/gulps, rub their beaks clean at the brim, and then proceed for the food. After gobbling some crumbs, they would once again rub the beak clean against some branch or wall edge and fly off. So much for hygiene, I suppose.

Sometimes, there are unusual scenes. Once, incessant chirping started quite early, in the darkness of thick jasmine vine. I was amazed what it could be. I waited for a while but when that didn’t stop, I took two biscuits, crushed them and put in the plate on the wall. Soon after, I saw four sparrows popping out from the jasmine and collecting at the plate. On closer look, I noticed they were two kids and their parents. The kids couldn’t hold their hunger and chirped desperately. They sat with their tiny beaks wide open and the parents took turns to put the crumbs into their hungry mouths.

In the meantime, some other visitors also started arriving, but the protective father would pounce at them and they would fly off. It became virtually a protected plate and nobody was allowed to approach it. That went on for more than a week, until the kids became fit enough to fend for themselves. However, squirrels happen to be the bully of the area who obey no birdie command. There are many of them and they would pounce at the plate the moment it is set. They would sit on the hind-legs, pick the food and start gobbling greedily. I feel bad for the birds. Then I started going out and driving them off to allow the birds have the stuff meant for them.

As of now, this birdie theatre has been going on uninterrupted for more than an year. Gradually, more and more feathered characters – kinds of birds, got attracted to the biscuit joint. Each announces its arrival in its unique melodious voice and the morning air is charged with their spirited, delightful notes. Early rising, I’d say, is not a bad idea, is it?                                                          * * * * *

# Ashok Misra

Life’s Simple Tales: Of compassion, human love

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Of compassion, human love

It took place more than two decade ago. But the whole incident still sometimes flashes back in my memory. We, my in-laws and me, were driving down from Kanpur to Mumbai in a Fiat car. It was a long drive, about 1500 kms and we had to take frequent halts en-route. On day 2, we took a lunch halt at a roadside hotel in Dewas, M.P.

We had occupied a table, placed our orders and started waiting for the meals to be prepared and served. The hotel used to charge a fixed rate per thali (plate) which included rotis (bread), daal (pulse), chawal (rice) and salad. Vegetable dishes were charged extra.

After some time, a tall, oldish man in rural attire came in and sat at the table next to us. Our thalis arrived and we started with the meals. I saw, the man next table was whispering something to the waiter in a low voice. The waiter was saying something shaking his head in the negative. The customer was almost pleading but the waiter did not look like agreeing.

Noticing the goings on between them, the Manager/Owner got curious and asked the waiter what the matter was. The waiter said, “Babuji, he is saying, his diet is a bit too heavy, and 5 rotis won’t be enough for him. He says he would not take daal, chawal and salad and wants more extra rotis in their lieu. He says he would eat with salt alone. I’m telling him that can’t be done.”

The Manager looked at the pathetic face of the hungry man for a moment, then he said to the waiter, “Give him all the extra rotis he wants and also give him the usual daal plate.”

The instant expression of relief and gratitude on the old man’s face was a sight to see…unforgettable. After all, isn’t feeding the hungry an act of compassion and human love?

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# Ashok Misra

 

Quotes n’ Notes: Edgar Allan Poe # Believe only…

“Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear.” # Edgar Allan Poe

Notes:
The above words come from Edgar Allan Poe, a 19th century American author, who is considered to be a pioneer in the field of short stories as well as detective fiction. His style was also marked by a unique sense of wit which is reflected in his hitting one-liners.

Here, Poe offers a tip, a note of caution against man’s credulousness. Could be, he had come across many unhappy experiences and lost faith in believing all that people say.

Poe’s first advice to his readers is to “Believe only half of what you see…” That means, we get only one half of the picture we see, i. e., the view that lies before our eyes. Since the other half lies on the opposite, eyes can’t see that. The author’s view obviously is ‘seeing is believing’. So he cautions us not to believe what we can’t see.

The other part of the tip is, “…and (believe) nothing that you hear.” That reflects his total disbelief in hearsay. Why so, one may ask, does everybody lie? The reason could be, people are likely to have their own perception of things that could be different from yours; or there might be some vested interests; or that was just by way of gossip. It could be anything that renders the spoken word unconvincing  and unbelievable for you. However, when one speaks face to face, he/she sounds more convincing and could be believed.

But, doesn’t that sound a bit perfectionist, rather too difficult to follow. After all, all that we hear may not be mere trash, gossip. Some of that could also be from well-informed, reliable sources too. And, if somehow one is able to strictly adheres to Poe’s caution, won’t that amount to cynicism? I just wondered.


# Ashok Misra

My Reflections: Man*, in conversation with ‘Hope’

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 My Reflections: Man* in Conversation with ‘Hope’

When dark clouds come hovering from all sides, growing thicker, gloomier; when nature seems to set upon revolting against man’s insensitive, callous ways to make her lose balance and harmony; and when man’s greed and barbaric acts become a threat to the survival of very humanity, hope comes as the only savior. It whispers in the ear, ‘Don’t give up on me. Every cloud has a silver lining. Catch yours to quell the thick pall of gloom.’

Fine, but how? It’s a never before kind of human catastrophe – pandemic. I just can’t believe.The very life lies shattered and scattered. Stealth virus pounces, silently but lethally. There are ever growing numbers of unsuspecting victims all over the world. Hospitals are over-brimming and graveyards chokingly full. Oh, I feel so helpless, no clue as to how to survive?

Hold on to life by any means. Turn your emergency settings on. Run to your own safety first. Take every possible measure. Seek every support you can immediately muster. Try to understand the threat, assess the magnitude of problem. Brace yourself to face it with all your might. Make a silent prayer to your God for mercy and divine solace.

Easier said than done. Fear…fear you know, totally paralyses the mind. One fails to think sane and act urgently, and you are sermonizing.

You’re absolutely right. But remember, it’s an emergency, ‘do or die’ situation. You have to call up all your mental resources – courage and resilience, persistence and …hope. It is like fighting against the wall. When one does that, ones power multiplies manifolds. ‘After all, fortune favors the brave.

So easy to quote brave sayings, but here is the life facing the ground reality.

Hold a bit man! Look around. Try to see there’re millions of people who are up against the catastrophe with all their might. Governments are trying to mobilize, gear up their medical care facilities like never before. Hospitals are active on war footing. Corona Warriors – doctors, nurses and supporting staff are working round the clock to fight their patients’ battle. Policemen are trying their level best to maintain (law and) order among the panicked populations. Researchers are competing to come up with a foolproof remedy, a vaccine to put an end to the deadly virus. Society itself, especially humanitarian organizations are leaving no stone un-turned to protect the people and humanity in their own ways. Compassionate people are making generous donations to help shoulder the burden.

Well, that sounds encouraging a bit. My mind seems to be stirring, waking up. Yes, you spoke about the ‘silver lining’. Now I can see that…over there. But…the problem is, its so vast, where to start?

Why? You’ve got the whole scenario…panoramic picture. Start with whatever you are capable of. The moment you step out, your fears would be left behind. You’d be energized with will power, and each action of yours would, you’ll see, come as a morale booster…immunity booster.

Thanks! But…I don’t know what would have happened had you not arrived and taken control of me. 

Ha ha ha you’re right. But don’t forget, I’m Hope, the stubborn one. Once you said ‘yes’, I won’t leave you until the storm passes. Provided, you don’t cowardly quit on me and let your fears and scares control your mind. Left to themselves, they only make one face the fury of the catastrophe, feeling helpless and miserable, and who knows…


# Ashok Misra

*Man in italics