Happy invention

Daisaku Ikeda says “Everything passes. Both soaring joys and crushing sorrows fade away like a dream. However, the knowledge of having lived one’s life to the fullest never disappears.”

My life has been quite full so far and yes, I have done foolish things too and wasted time.  However, the time that I have spent following my heart have been the most joyful (including writing these blogs, which have helped me to understand myself).  Yes, I can to look back at the foolish stuff I have done, yet they were learning experiences, even though they may have been sometimes unhappy.  The present is the only moment to live, fully.  We don’t know what the future may bring but as Alan Kay says, “The best way to predict the future is invent it.”

Happy invention today to all of you!



Courage and standing alone

Today is the birthday of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944). Makiguchi was a Japanese geographer, educational theorist and religious reformer. His forward-thinking theories are now widely used in business management, governance and teaching.  However, during his life time, he remained largely unknown and died in prison at the age of 72 for his opposition to Japan’s militarism and nationalism during World War II.

Makiguchi was not rich or famous, two of his children died and in his old age, he died alone in prison while most of his followers left him in fear of the military authorities.  Compared to our twitter and facebook era- his life could be seen as that of loneliness and failure.  Sometimes it may also feel that what we are doing is being unrecognised, that we too are alone in our work (and we are hardly earning any money).  In a way, this does not matter.  Living true to ourselves is what matters.  There are many famous people who got awards, only for that to be taken away in their old age or after their death. Some squandered their wealth or their families did it for them.  Many such people died unhappy, having lived a lifetime pursuing triviality, instead of their passion.  There are also many people who stood alone and now, after their death, many follow in their paths and their hearts.  Only time decides the individual’s true worth. It is always best to be true to one’s heart and work towards ‘great good’.

In Makiguchi’s words- “A thousand sheep cannot hold their own against a single lion. A single courageous individual dedicated to the Great Good can accomplish far more important things than a thousand cowards who practice only passive and minimal good. It’s not the number, but the quality of people that matters.” 

on being safe

Yesterday, I wrote about following your heart while overcoming physical problems.  I have also been thinking about how one can be creative while grappling with externally imposed severe mental and physical restrictions such as imprisonment and torture. I have a book, Another Sky: voices of conscience from around the world, which contains accounts of activists, poets, scientists, teachers and writers who were imprisoned for their beliefs.  Like the Jewish prisoners from German concentration camps, these men and women from all over the world produced great letters, memoirs, poetry and even paintings.  Some like Ken Saro- Wiwa paid the ultimate price and some like Aung San Suu Kyi were eventually released.

Despite being physically separated, our spirit can still connect and intersect with everyone and this becomes our source of energy and creativity.  Whether we are physically free or not, our true freedom and creativity comes from within.  We could be living with liberty and wealth but not following our hearts.  Nichiren writes- “…when a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge.”


Thich Tue Sy, a Vietnamese scholar and writer, was arrested in March 1984 and sentenced to death four years later on trumped up charges. The sentence was later commuted to 20 years imprisonment and he was finally released in 1998.  In the poem below written in prison, he manages to convey his true and vast state of life despite the confinement-

Narrow Cell

Here in my narrow cell I am free.

Strolling leisurely.

I talk, laugh with myself,

casting a longing eye towards the Eternal sun.

the black swan

Yesterday, I watched the movie, Black Swan, about a ballet dancer who becomes obsessed with her work and appears to be surrounded by disturbed people who in turn have a destructive effect on her life.  This movie deservedly won the lead actor, Natalie Portman, an Oscar.  Seeing this darkly disturbing portrayal, I too began to wonder if I have been guilty of being obsessed with work.  But following our hearts is not about obsession, rather it is about about compassion– for ourselves, for our failings and for others.  In Buddhism, compassion and courage are known as two sides of the same coin.  Compassion without courage may be toothless while courage without compassion could be ruthless.

When we have compassion, our lives begin to move forward and other avenues open up. I realised that having compassionate courage is the path of following one’s heart.  Interestingly, Black Swan’s director, Darren Aronofsky, has this to say about following one’s heart- “I try to live my life where I end up at a point where I have no regrets. So I try to choose the road that I have the most passion on because then you can never really blame yourself for making the wrong choices. You can always say you’re following your passion.”

Providence and preparedness

On 24th May 2013, I wrote about the Scottish mountaineer, W H Murray, who was captured by the Germans during the Second World War and his astonishing story of writing his memoirs on toilet paper.  Murray was able to capture the moment by being determined and through this determination, become able to make things happen (see my blog on Overcoming hesitancy)

Murray’s experience and quote resounds with Nichiren‘s explanation made in 13th Century Japan-

“It is like the case of a fishing net: though the net is composed of innumerable small meshes, when one pulls on the main cord of the net, there are no meshes that do not move. Or it is like a garment: though the garment is composed of countless tiny threads, when one pulls on a corner of the garment, there are no threads that are not drawn along.”

I remember this Louis Pasteur quote too, “Chance prepares only the favoured mind.” All these great minds were talking about the same thing.  Last year, I started a chain of events by giving away books and other stuff to my colleagues in preparation for leaving my place of work and starting something new.  At that time, there was nothing to suggest that there would be a favourable moment to leave as I was very busy and it appeared that I was really needed there.  But that moment arrived in February this year, only about six months later.  I felt as if I had created that moment when I started taking action.

T T Munger was a research scientist in the USA and he said this, “Providence has nothing good or high in store for one who does not resolutely aim at something high or good. A purpose is the eternal condition of success.”  That moment was the right time to leave for something better was validated in this case. Agatha Christie, one of my favourite writers used this quote from Shakespeare Julius Caesar in one of her crime novels-

“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;”

So if there is something that you really want to do, start preparing for it now.  Then you will be prepared well when the moment to realise it arrives!

things to do, places to go and people to see

There seem to be so many things I could do- my brain, time and creativity seem to be stretched to accommodate everyone and everything.  I love doing lots but that is not necessarily productive or good- especially for my health and sanity.  So when I was feeling very tired and desperate from ‘constant doing’, I found some great advice which I would like to share.

This comes from the philosophy teacher of Tal Ben-Shahar, who has written a bestseller called ‘Happier’ and runs an eponymous course at Harvard University.  This teacher, Ohad Ramin, told him when he was a young graduate, “Life is short.  In choosing a path make sure you first identify those things that you can do. Out of those, select the ones that you want to do.  Then, reduce your choice further by zooming on what you really want to do. Finally select those things that you really, really want to do– and do them!”

This rang a bell for me when I started the journey of following my heart.  I really had to edit out many things in order to concentrate on things that mattered to me and really, really want to do.  In many ways, the way we mature in our lives consist of this constant editing, following our hearts and becoming happier as a result.