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Title: If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir Author: Om Swami

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If truth be told, Om Swami is the monk who sold his Porsche. And he gets that a lot, he says. He also renounced his multi-million International dollar business with the other worldly things. The book is his ­memoir. In a ­simple, engaging manner, Swami narrates his journey from being a multi-millionaire at 26 in Australia, to monkhood at 30 in the Himalayan ­foothills.

"When I wasn’t even conceived, an enlightened soul ­told my mother that she will give birth to a son who will be “one amongst” the enlightened. His mother guarded the prophecy like a little secret, wishing that his son would never renounce the world. But fate had its own plans. At eight, Om Swami had a vision of God in a dream that left him wanting for more. He wanted to ­experience the ecstasy again, and see the Goddess with his eyes wide open. Eventually, he did meet the Goddess, says the book — as he gave up luxury, ­success, million-dollar business and all the worldly pleasures to observe stringent ­meditative Tantric and Vedic practices.

This inspiring read isn’t didactic or religiously preachy. What you learn is what you absorb while reading the tale of the modern-day monk who now writes on his blog omswami.com from his ­ashram.

But, it would’ve been nice to read about the Tantric practices in more details, just as other practices have been ­written about. And at places, the detail and ­description is wanting. Yet, pick it up to get motivated and learn ­ simple happiness and worldly truths.

A conversation with him is equally enriching. He gave us very simple rules to live stress-free in these stress-inducing times. "Don't bite more than you can chew," says the sage, explaining, "People need to learn the art of 'no'. Someone asks for a favour, someone wants a job done they approach you and you say 'okay, would do it'. Then, you are constantly living under stress to complete that job, even though you don't have the time or energy. Sometimes, you want to spend 20 lakhs on a wedding, when your savings are just 15 lakhs! People need to learn to say no, don't bite more than you can chew."
Book review of A Monk?s Memoir: Truth be told, this is the monk who sold his Porsche - Hindustan Times


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Betrayal of Trust
A true guru's presence is like the soft stream that gently sculpts the disciple, chiseling the rock of their hardened tendencies. Steadily.

Often I get asked questions around guru, the role of guru, surrendering to your guru, how much should you trust your guru and so on. A lovely reader who has been following my blog for a while, and has already read my memoir, wrote to me recently. She was greatly, and perhaps rightly, distressed after reading an article (here) about Satyananda (1923 – 2009), a famous yoga guru, whose ashram is being investigated for sexual abuse.
I’ve written in the past (here) that the relationship between a guru and a disciple is like no other because it’s free from the usual give and take. But, an important question to be asked is who is a guru or what makes a person guru? Wearing the robe, completing a certain course, being able to meditate, or to be able to give a discourse, or having disciples does not make one a guru.

Anyone can don a robe — white, black, ocher or any other, it doesn’t matter. Just like people study physics or English literature, they can study Vedic or yogic literature too; there’s practically no difference — one exposes you to one school of thought and the other, another. Anyone who isn’t afraid of putting in the effort can be a meditator or an orator, for instance. Insofar as having disciples is concerned, you can find ample takers for any philosophy in this world. Even the most absurd philosophies, the dumbest teachers or preachers can garner huge followings. A large following has absolutely no connection with the quality of a guru. It simply means the guru is appealing to the masses. Even a potato or a pumpkin has mass appeal, for that matter.

Look at the most successful meditation, yoga or spiritual movements of all time where followers have devoted their entire lives to the guru, sect or the movement but how many have actually reached a state of enlightenment? None. (At least, I haven’t met any). Ever wonder why? Let me tell you honestly, my first guiding principle: no one has ever gained enlightenment in an ashram, temple or a monastery. When a guru tells you to follow his or her system for realization or heaven, they are fooling you. You deserve better. They can call it this meditation or that meditation, this kriya or that kriya, it doesn’t matter. These are merely frameworks and systems and they work because when it comes to spirituality, a lot of people are happy with very little.

If you are going to put someone on a pedestal because they deliver a good sermon or because they are charming or knowledgeable, your chances of getting hurt go up exponentially. You may be mistaking a competent performer or a good marketer for guru. They will turn you into puppets, they will utilize you to further their cause and they will exercise control because you are letting them. And this leads me to give you my second guiding principle: Don’t accept someone as your guru just because they have bowled you over. Follow them only if you would like to be like them.

If your guru teaches you to stay away from anger but you see him shouting, he’s a hypocrite. If you sense greed and selfishness in him, if you see him telling lies while he asks you to practice the truth, he’s a hypocrite. When, even though, he preaches love and compassion, but, no matter what the cause, if his buildings, ashrams are more important to him than the wellbeing and welfare of those who look up to him, he’s a hypocrite. Please open your eyes and wake up. Abandon him. Don’t accept the wrong just because your guru is doing it. And , that leads to an extremely important point: what is wrong?

When what they say is not what they do, it’s wrong. For example, if Osho slept with a woman, I wouldn’t call it wrong because he never said he didn’t. If Ramdev did, however, I would flag it as misconduct because he says he’s a celibate. So long as their actions match their words, I don’t see a betrayal. When your guru is open and honest, they are not wrong then, even if you disagree with them. At that time, you have the choice to stay or go. And, by open and honest, I don’t mean they have to hand you their personal diary (unless they ask you for yours). If their actions or conduct doesn’t sit well with you, move on. Because, not everything needs to be judged and just like you, your guru too is entitled to have a life of his own.

Having said that, I can tell you what is wrong regardless of how liberal your guru may be or how spiritual the situation may seem. When people are hurt, abused, molested, or mistreated, it’s always wrong. Always. When you are asked to lie to fellow followers for any cause whatsoever, it’s always wrong. When your guru tells you his way is the only way, it’s the biggest lie. When you see wrong, don’t put up with it and don’t just leave. Speak up. Learn to trust your inner voice. Not all gurus are bad though. Even in this day and age where many of them are crooks, there are plenty of honest and good gurus too. If you walk the path sincerely, Nature will arrange for a guru in your life. Take my word for it.

Before you accept someone as your guru, take your time. Examine him or her thoroughly. Repeatedly. Pointedly. Only take them as your guru if you absolutely accept what they represent and want to become like them. Once you are ready, put your trust not in your guru but in what they stand for. Because, when you place your trust in a phenomenon and not just a person, when you invest your sentiments in a belief or a cause and not just its proponent, it no longer remains just trust then, it becomes faith. And, faith, unlike trust, can never be betrayed because true faith is unconditional. It’s not based on anything.

Guru is not a position of absolute power but a conduit of unreasonable compassion. He will never abuse power because he doesn’t hold any power to begin with, only love. A true guru will never tell you to tread his path blindly, instead he’ll encourage you to find your own. He’s gentle like the flowing river, warm like the winter sun, bright like the full moon, rejuvenating like the first summer rain. And, if you don’t feel gentle, warm, bright and rejuvenated yourself in his company, he’s not the right guru for you.


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When will My Bad Time End? will My Bad Time End?
We have taken upon ourselves so many responsibilities that we can’t afford any changes. Even a small change can cause big problems. We often classify people, things, circumstances into good or bad. So, when people are going through challenges, they generally pour their heart out and tell me how life’s not fair, but in the end, they ask me two questions:
a. Why is this happening to me? And,
b. When will my bad time end?

I know what they mean, I hear what they are saying, but personally I don’t think time is good or bad. Beyond this rudimentary classification, how we see what we do makes all the difference to our happiness. A while ago I wrote a post on this (read it here). When what is happening to us is inconvenient, we see it as bad and when life goes according to us, we call it good. This is a sorry and an incomplete definition.

This duality of categorizing everything in absolutes, in good-bad is a dangerous and an extremely limited view. Is summer good or winter bad, spring good and autumn bad? It all depends on our needs and our wants. Those who love snowboarding wait for winters and those who want skateboarding crave for summers. I can’t tell you precisely why you are going through what you are. It may be because of your choices, your skills or simply the circumstances. But, I can tell you with absolute certainty when will your bad time end. Read on.

Your bad time will end the moment you stop seeing it as bad. The “bad” will go away and time will continue to tick, for Time, in its own right, is beyond classification, it never stops nor ends. It keeps moving. And, it does so without any adjectives. What we often label as good or bad are simply the seasons of life, the colors of time. Every night is greeted by dawn and every day disappears into dusk. This is the truth of life.

Everything is impermanent, transient and interdependent. It’s a passing phase. It is unreasonable, even foolish, to expect that time will always be “good”. Time, like nature, like everything else in our infinite universe, moves indiscriminately. Sun doesn’t say I’ll shine brighter here or lighter there because this is what people want, or because this is what I want. It just shines.

In a busy marketplace, Mulla Nasrudin sold his aging donkey to a young man for thirty dinars. The new buyer began auctioning the animal right away.

“Here’s a chance of a lifetime,” he hollered. “What a beautiful donkey! Quiet and hard working! Look at his strong white teeth! Ah, these soft eyes!”

He continued to glorify the donkey with unearthly praises.
“40 dinars!” A man shouted in the crowd.
“45 dinars!” Another voice came.
“60 dinars!” Yet another one cried.

Mulla stood there stupefied. “How dumb of me to think it was just another donkey,” he thought. “Look at how these people are desperate for him.”
“80!” Someone yelled as the bidding progressed. Everyone went quiet at the high bid.
“80 dinars going once… 80 dinars going—”
“100 dinars!” Mulla roared. “I must own this magnificent creature.”

Sometimes life feels ordinary, time feels bad because it’s not going our way but just when we are about to part with it, we begin to see its real value. It’s the same life, it’s the same donkey, but because someone else is placing a higher bid on it now, we up the ante too. Our stance changes, our priorities shift, we want it now.

Life does not know what you want, it only sees what you do. And even if it could understand what you want from it, it is too unattached, too wise to take you too seriously. Have you ever noticed how it flees in a split second? This is the life we dearly hold, protect, cherish and cling to for decades. But, when it leaves, it does so abruptly, even cruelly. What can we possibly expect from our world, from others, when our own life refuses to look back at us disregarding the feelings we held for it all along.

Whatever is your present, learn to be grateful and enjoy it. This is the way to take care of yourself. And, care, I may add, is a peculiar and a paradoxical sentiment. If you don’t take care, it’ll wear you out and you’ll be careworn. And if you do take care, it will set you free and you’ll be carefree. You choose. Carefully. Because, your life rests on your choices and your choices depend on your priorities, and they, in turn, depend on what you want. Let’s not hold time responsible for what is borne out of our desires and conditioning.

Know time for what it is — ever moving. Discover yourself for what you are — eternal. If time’s soul is movement, yours is liberation. Beyond good and bad lies your truth.
When will My Bad Time End?
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