Friday, October 14, 2011

Unconditional Love

“Don’t be so nice to them, they’ll take advantage of you.” People have often told me this. More and more, it seems to me that being considerate, talking to people with a genuine smile, and going that extra mile to help another person are traits that are rare to find. Even when a person displays them, the general perception is that there must be an ulterior motive underlying the nicety. You can’t just want to be nice to someone for the sake of being nice, can you? 

In my opinion, the problem arises when we view all of our interactions as “transactions.” The idea being that if I give something to someone, there must be an equal and opposite exchange from that person to me, or it’s an unfair deal. In a world dominated by fear, where we’re always scared that there won’t be enough left over for tomorrow, where we’re made to feel like we don’t even have enough for today so that we go out and buy something new – in such a world, it becomes increasingly difficult to operate from a place of selfless love where there is no expectation of anything in return for what I give. The irony is that this kind of giving – the kind with no expectation of reward or recognition in return - tends to be the most satisfying to the soul of the giver!

“Giving” doesn’t necessarily refer to a monetary gift. We often assume that charity is all about the money, and that only when I have enough money saved up in the future can I “afford” to be charitable. That day, quite obviously, will never come. It will always be one bigger amount away. More often than not, some of the greatest deeds of philanthropy tend to be small acts of kindness that often go unnoticed by the public at large. Acts that require me to step out of my obsession with my own life and do something that might make someone else’s journey a tad smoother.

An incident that took place some hours ago got me thinking about all of this. I had just disembarked from a bus at the Kuala Lumpur airport, and had to wrestle with a luggage trolley to extract it from a train of empty trolleys that were jammed together real tight on the kerb. As I swerved away with my hard-earned trolley, I noticed a lady struggling to pull out a trolley for herself. She had a number of luggage pieces with her, delicately balanced one on top of the other on the ground. I left my own trolley and reached out to offer her a helping hand. She appreciated the gesture, and we exchanged smiles. Once she had her trolley, she was gone. I didn’t know who she was and will probably never see her again in my life. But in that moment of assistance, a vibration of kindness and gratitude was created.

There’s kindness, love, and compassion out there in the Universe. Each time we commit a selfless act, help someone in need, or even send out a genuine prayer for someone we don’t really know personally, we’re pulling forth some of that positive energy from Universal Consciousness and bringing it into our world.

It would be an act of charity to improve the quality of interactions that we have with others in our world. What can we do to bring forth more positive energy into these interactions, and convert the negative energy pockets into free flowing plumes of unconditional love?

The most powerful force in the world is love. And the purest form of love is the unconditional kind. The kind that we think only a saint or God should have. “I’m just human, you know” is the excuse I often hear. If only we would realise that it is our “human”-ness that makes us capable of transcending the boundaries of instinct and mind to love without condition. To love the kind of love that exists only because the heart overflows with compassion for the other being – and for no other reason!

I have come to realise that it is only when I allow myself to give unconditionally, that I will be able to accept unconditionally as well. When my own actions are motivated purely by the extent of what I will get in return, I begin to view another person’s niceness to me from the prism of my selfish world view and am unable to recognize that person’s love for me as genuine. Therefore, in my desperate need to quantify and measure the exchange, I start to look for the ulterior motive. And it’s always easy to come up with one!

Each one of us is capable of functioning from a place of unconditional love. Does our world really have to be “ruthless” like many describe it as? “It’s a jungle out there” is what I’ve heard as well. The truth is that the jungle functions in perfect balance – just the way nature intended it to. Perhaps we need to create the jungle in our world as well, so that we can begin to live together in perpetual harmony rather than constant discord.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Soul Free
No more can she placate
her yearning to be free.
She breaks her shackles,
casts away the heavy shroud.
In the brightness of her dazzling light
now revealed,
she sings her song,
her very own story.
The wafting notes of her melody
reach out to them
and many more
are set free.

 © Sai Ganesh Nagpal

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fritzy's World

Fritzy. She wandered into our apartment complex in New Delhi some weeks ago and decided to make it her home. Many of us residents took care of her - feeding her and loving her. She was mostly white with some patches of golden brown painted across her back. A splatter of light brown gave character to her otherwise large and pointy ears that looked a little big for her narrow face. Her eyes were doe-like, beautifully shaped - the kind that could turn every gaze into a soulful plea.

I first met her was when I took Mitraa, our pet dog who we adopted off the streets a year ago, for her evening walk. Fritzy came bounding up to us, her scrawny tail wagging tentatively. Not the overbearing kind, she stopped just short of us to gauge my reaction. Like she was asking for my permission to play with Mitraa.

Mitraa is usually not one who takes very kindly to her fellow brethren on the streets. The feeling is mutual - her fellow brethren don't have a high opinion of her either. They usually dismiss her with a look of disdain and a deep throated growl, while she struggles to break free of the leash and lunge at them. When this happens, the human caught in the crossfire, which often happens to be my Dad or me, is in an unenviable position - barely managing to maintain a grip on the leash and avert an ambush in the making. Mitraa thinks she can take them on single-handedly. We have often tried breaking it to her that she is sorely mistaken on this count.

But with Fritzy, it was different. She and Mitraa took to one another like fish to water. The introductions were tentative. They sniffed each other in all the wrong places. Once that was out of the way, though, they jumped onto each other, frolicked in the mud, pawed one another, and generally made complete monkeys of themselves. Fritzy was all about gentle play. Mitraa, on the other hand, has an exuberant personality. She's more "hands on". Fritzy would begin the duel by nudging Mitraa with her nose. It was like she was saying "come on, don't be a bore - let's play!” Mitraa obviously took Fritzy's jibes very seriously. She would put her paws onto Fritzy's back and give her a little kick. That would get Fritzy all riled up and she would nudge Mitraa back. Then they'd go round and round in circles, chasing one another. Fritzy enjoyed it thoroughly. She loved instigating Mitraa and having her lead the play session.

During these play sessions, however, Mitraa always had her leash on. If that ever came off, she would go running off towards the not-so-friendly stray dogs who sit in the lane parallel to ours. An encounter like that could be dangerous for Mitraa so even though we love all the stray dogs in our complex - we even feed them - we do make sure that Mitraa stays away from them.

That evening, I watched in glee while Fritzy and Mitraa played cat and mouse. A few minutes later, I felt her leash go limp in my hand. Mitraa had wiggled out of her collar! In the next millisecond, here's what happened. I looked at Mitraa, and she looked up at me. Our eyes went big with surprise for different reasons. The glee that shone in her eyes was in stark contrast to the horror writ across mine. Mitraa was quicker than me. Before I could say or do anything, she went charging away with Fritzy. Fritzy couldn't believe her good fortune. She finally had the dog all to herself without the human in tow. I knew, though, that if Mitraa saw the other stray dogs, she would get into a fight and would probably not come out alive. I went running after Mitraa and Fritzy, screaming Mitraa's name. She saw me run towards her and thought this was a game so she began running even faster in the opposite direction. Fritzy was on a high - this was way too much excitement for her all of a sudden.

As both of them ran, they suddenly veered towards the left and were gone. When I reached the spot, I realized that they had run into the neighbor's garden. The gate was left ajar, so I quickly closed and bolted the gate from outside. Fritzy and Mitraa were all over each other in the garden.

Meanwhile, the neighbor's dog - a sausage dog - waddled out the main door, curious about the commotion in his garden. He had barely appeared on the porch, when Mitraa and Fritzy pounced on him. They had found a new, albeit unwilling, playmate. The commotion got even louder, and the neighbors - humans this time - came running out into the garden and screamed when they saw their dog being manhandled by two street dogs.

Unable to bear this anymore, I opened the gate and went dashing in. I managed to get my arms around Mitraa. You can imagine the neighbor’s horror when they saw a man run into their garden unannounced. In the ensuing melee, however, I accidentally left the garden gate open and sausage dog thought it a perfect time to take an evening stroll.  With Mitraa in my arms, and Fritzy - in a state of hyper-ventilation - trotting behind me, I went running after sausage dog. I had nearly caught up with him, when he stopped in his tracks and looked back at me over his left shoulder. He gave me a disgusted look that said "I'm not a menace like your street dog. I can handle myself perfectly well in the outdoors." I did not attempt to question his conviction. By then, the human neighbors had arrived and sausage dog was in safe hands.

Mitraa slept like a log that night, and Fritzy looked dizzy with excitement even the next day.

Some days ago, we got to know that Fritzy passed away. She was hit by a speeding car when she wandered onto the road outside. She had mustered every last bit of strength to crawl back inside the gate, and that's where she breathed her last. No one was around when this happened. By the time we were alerted, it was too late. 

When I heard the news, my eyes welled up with tears. I hugged Mitraa real tight - hoping that some of the extra love would somehow be sent over to Fritzy.

Just that morning, Dad had seen Fritzy galloping around the park with Blackie, another gentle stray dog who had become her constant companion.

These days, whenever I drive through the gate and park my car, I feel a heaviness come over me. I miss seeing beautiful Fritzy come bounding up to me, her tail wagging. I miss looking into her pleading eyes, giving her a rub on the head, and watching the pleading turn to pure contentment.

I look over my shoulder and see Blackie sitting beside the entrance to the park, his head resting between his front paws. It looks to me like he patiently waits for his playmate to return.

(Photograph courtesy Michelle Lohutko)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


When the tumultuous
storms of indecision ravage
my peace...

When the shrill drones
of envious minds
rattle my confidence,
and the vultures of deceit
threaten to tear apart
the sanctuary of
calm within...

When my cries of despair
are so loud
that I am deafened
by their intensity...

When nothing of this world
seems worth holding on to
except the memory
of communion
with you...

I close my eyes
and every pore of my being
to be with you
in a place
where compassion is not alien,
and kindness
not an aberration.
I call your name
Oh Lord of Puttaparthi!
I cry out loud...
for you.

And then, when the fragrance
of Vibhuti wafts across the room,
when the memory of your smile
flashes before my eyes,
and the comfort of your words
rushes in to soothe my heart,
I know
that you're there,
whispering the sounds of eternity
to my thirsting soul.
I know
that you're there.

© Sai Ganesh Nagpal

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Set Free

A moment in prayer was made beautiful
by a fleeting glimpse
of your blessed
The floodgates of my heart
burst open,
no more shackled by
nor withered by judgement.
I felt love abound
for myself.
My spirit soared
even as tears fell.
With each drop,
I was raised to wondrous heights.
I bowed down to you
and knew that
at long last,
I had set myself

 © Sai Ganesh Nagpal

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Loving India

My heart brims over with joy and pride as I watch India's tricolor flutter high above the grandeur of New Delhi's Rajpath. India is celebrating her 62nd Republic Day, and though I stand still as the National Anthem rents the air, my heart is in a frenzy of emotion. It's that time of the year again, when the soulful notes of "Jana Gana Mana," "Vande Maataram," and "Maa Tujhe Salam" remind me about my love for this land, my adoration of the essence and spirit of this great nation that we today refer to as India. Known through the ages by names like Bhaarat and Aryavarta.

This is the land where people have converged from time immemorial in search of peace. Where the chaos of everyday living has cast an illusory veil over the oasis of peace that only the truest seeker is fortunate to discover. A land where kings and queens have lived in immaculate palaces alongside hermitages where monks revelled in the ecstasy of the palace within. Where the idea of "Aham Brahmasmi" or "I am Divinity" has defined the tradition of Sanathana Dharma, that is today known as 'Hinduism.'

Here is where the form of Ganesha adorns nearly every living room; where Krishna is incomplete without Radha; and where the Goddess is as powerful, if not more, than the Gods. Where the relationship between human and God is made personal, so that the divine is never thought to be too high up or too far away to experience. After all, Ganesha is only a glance away, and Saraswati only a song away.

The very concept of India suggests a freedom where Spirit is not shackled by name and form. I open my heart to the love of Krishna as much as I do to the wisdom of Rama. Soulful chants from the Vedas stir my soul, much like the Gurbaani sung in a Gurdwara brings tears to the eyes.

This land is ironical in that it allows me to get mired in ritual, yet it also gives me the choice to rise above ritual and, thereby, unravel some of the deepest mysteries of life. I can choose to worship a river by offering flowers to it every day. Or, I can choose to embrace the idea behind this ritual. The idea that the river is a metaphor for life itself. A cyclical journey that begins and ends in the ocean. Like the soul's journey that begins from the Spirit and ultimately culminates in union with the Spirit.

The dancers performing on Rajpath are dressed in vibrant colors. Their energetic performance is followed by a serene procession of monks singing buddhist chants. So typical of India. I like to think of her as a splash of myriad colors painted on one canvas. She is calm like the waters of a placid lake, yet she can be tumultous like waves in the grip of a tempest. She showers you with the love of a mother, and molds you with the strength of a father. She is both, the beauty of the rose and the prick of its thorns.

My gaze wanders back to the tricolor. I am mesmerized by the saffron, green, and white. Each color is symbolic, each pattern laden with meaning. Just like so much else about India. A world within worlds, where every seeker finds their own path. I found mine here, and I have much to be grateful for. From the depths of my heart, I sing to her "Maa Tujhe Salaam!" (Glory to thee, O Mother!)