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March 23, 2006

What's hard on your ego?

Jitendra started the session with a Prayer to Ganesha:

Vakra Tunda Maha Kaya
Koti Surya Sama Prabha
Nirvighnam Kurame Deva
Sarva Karyeshu Sarvada


O�Lord with a curved Trunk and Mighty body and whose luster equals a crore of suns, I pray to thee, remove the obstacles from all the actions I perform.

After translating the prayer, Jitentra shared a new view on Ganesha that he had heard from someone: generally lord Ganesha is worshipped for removing obstacles from one�s path. But sometimes he also puts obstacles in the path in order to protect us from a bigger obstacle that would have come our way had we gone ahead with our original plan. For example, our car tire may go flat delaying us only to be saved from an accident that we would have been part of.

When I used to hear such views when I was young, I used think that these spiritual-type elders just make up a story to give a positive spin on something that seems to contradict traditional beliefs (praying Ganesha and shortly afterwards facing an obstacle, for example).

Now, I look deeper into the story and find that the real message in the traditional view (remover of obstacle) and the exception (creator of obstacle for future good) are not literal. Ganesha represents a larger power that controls many more variables beyond our awareness. Having faith in that power removes internal anxieties and restores ones confidence. And in case there are external obstacles, again having faith let�s us accept them as necessary conditions for our safety and growth. In other words, faith enables a certain perspective that accepts reality and generates confidence. Faith begets more faith, acceptance begets more acceptances, and confidence begets more confidence. If acceptance and confidence stays with us constantly (due to faith) no matter what the external circumstances are, one can imagine what a powerful state that is to be.

Srini said that his experience in doing a Startup feels like the scene from Matrix:

Neo reaches out to touch the mirror and his fingers disappear beneath the rippling surface.

Quickly, he tries to pull his fingers out but the mirror stretches in long rubbery strands like mirrored-taffy stuck to his fingertips.

(After a series of virtual reality manipulations�)

Neo's body arches in agony and we are pulled like we were pulled into the holes of the phone. Sucked into his SCREAM and swallowed by darkness � (from the actual Matrix script).

Srini said that he feels like Neo sucked into another reality. He did make the choice (like Neo takes the pill). But he is not ready to embrace the consequences of his choice. Like Neo does not accept for a long time that he is �the one�.

To do a Startup, I guess the entrepreneur must accept that he is �the one� with all the necessary talents and powers. Until the entrepreneur believes in himself, no one is going to believe in him and his powers are not accessible to him.

Vijay shared a story about Gandhi: Once a mother brought her son to Gandhi and told him that her son is addicted to sugar and asked him whether he can advice her son. Gandhi thought a bit and asked her to come back after two weeks. The mother promptly goes back after two weeks. Gandhi looks at her son and tells him, �Son, eating a lot of sugar is not good for your health. Please quit eating sugar.�

The mother was surprised and asked Gandhi why she had to wait two weeks for him to give such a simple advice. To this Gandhi replied that he had to experiment on himself to find out whether it is possible to stop eating sugar. So he stopped eating sugar for two weeks and after being convinced that it can be done, he gave the advice.

After sharing the story, Vijay asked whether someone lacks integrity if he or she gives advice without personal experience. Vijay felt that this need not be the case. He said that advice can be given and taken at different levels � at the level of information or encouragement or as an example. One need not doubt ones integrity if ones advice is not coming from ones own experience.

Couple of others believed that ones advice does lack integrity if it is not from personal experience.

Considering that most people are not very disciplined in giving advice, restricting ones advice to personal experience at least can avoid many bad advice. On the other had, some piece of information that could have been very valuable for others might not be revealed if one believes in experiential advice. I think that the underlying issue is not as much personal experience as genuineness. If we were very genuine in our interest in helping others, then we would indeed take enormous care before advising others. Making a rule that �I will only give advice in that which I already have experience� is an easier way to be genuine because the truth of the experience takes care of the genuineness instead of one having to consciously be genuine. I think the best case would be to base our advice on our experience and consciously be genuine. One might skip the experience part if our mind and heart tells us we are genuine at the time of giving advice.

Jitendra said that he has been thinking about how to make choices that are beneficial to a relationship without compromising on the issue at hand. He said that many times he knows he is right but also realizes that he cannot force his choice on others. And yet, if he goes with others� choices in spite of knowing better, the issue at hand will suffer and hence the relationship will suffer in the long run.

I quoted one of my friends who said that one of the questions people need to ask themselves is, �Do I want to be right or happy.� Often the need to be right gets in the way of looking at the bigger picture � the fundamental necessity to be happy. So there is some value to that question.

But Vijay and others raised many points about whether it is possible to be wrong and happy.

What finally emerged as the sensible thing to do is to give more importance to happiness than righteousness but at the same time, learn from past mistakes. This way, one need not worry about being wrong because if ones choice turns out to be wrong, it would be noticed and not repeated. On the other hand, giving more importance to being right not only spoils the present moment, but if the choice had to be made against it, later when things go wrong, instead of learning from it, all one is left with are blame and frustration.

I think a better way to frame that question is, �Do I want to be happy and eventually be right or be right now and forever be unhappy?�

I suggested that one way to overcome the need to be right is to follow Rev. Heng Sure�s advice: Whenever you are in a difficult situation, do that which is hardest on your ego.

It is hard on the ego to accept that one does not have total control over ones actions and their outcomes. Hence let us pray Ganesha to remove our obstacles.

It is hard on the ego to accept that one is not able to overcome an obstacle. Hence let us trust that Ganesha has given us that obstacle for our future good.

It is hard on the ego to give advice with total genuineness. So let us first experiment our advice on ourselves.

It is hard on the ego to let go of a familiar identity and embrace a bigger one. So let us take the pill and accept we are �the one�.

It is hard on the ego to allow oneself or others to make mistakes. So let us allow mistakes and be happy now.

What is hard on your ego today? Go ahead, do it!

Posted by Ragu at March 23, 2006 01:05 PM