An “Eccentric” Historical Figure

This post is inspired from Robbie’s Open Book Blog Hop – A historical figure who interests me.

Have you heard about an eccentric king – a paradoxical personality?

Known as “the inhuman eccentric” and “a man of knowledge” who had an interest in subjects like philosophy, medicine, mathematics, religion, Persian and Urdu/Hindustani poetry, Muhammad bin Tughlaq, the sultan of Delhi from 1325-1351 is the most fascinating historical figure. He is famous for his bizarre, illogical and impractical decisions that earned him the title of a “crazy” king. It is astounding to note that he could rule for 25 years despite his wild policies.

In contemporary times, Tughlaq is a term still used to tease someone when they do something illogical or counter-intuitive.

What did he do to earn such titles?

  1. He ordered to move his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad and told all the citizens to move to the new capital. In the process, many died on the road due to hunger and exhaustion. (1327)

2. Just after eight years, in 1335, due to political repercussions, he decided to shift the capital back to Delhi, allowing the citizens to return to their previous city. Isn’t it crazy?

3. He allowed the use of token currency, that means coins of brass and copper were minted whose value was equal to that of gold and silver coins. As a result, the value of currency declined and the coins became as “worthless as stones.” Anybody could mint them at home. Nobody could distinguish between the official and the forged coins.

4. He increased the land revenue tax at a time when the Doab region was facing famine, thereby antagonizing his own people.

5. He lost an army of 10,000 soldiers (who perished in the Himalayas) due to poor planning of Karajal expedition.

However, many historians believe that he was a “visionary and a reformer” but lacked the ability to implement his plans.

Ironically, there is no dearth of such personalities in modern times too! It is easier to have a vision.

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Enlightenment or Self-awakening

I stumbled upon this write-up in my archives.

This word: “Enlightenment” has always intimidated me…it has given me visions of rising up into a different world, a sphere beyond my reach and therefore I have been trying to understand it for many years now.

Buddhist interpretation of the word… “the awakening to ultimate truth by which man is freed from the endless cycle of personal reincarnations to which all men are otherwise subject” is quite overwhelming.

Then I read about self-awakening: the truth that lies within us, the emotions that guide us toward our goals, that define the purpose of our life. And I arrived at some conclusions.

Enlightenment is not just spiritual, not just a state of transcendent divine experience, which aims at liberation from self, craving, suffering and rebirth. It is the ability to comprehend ourselves, it is the power to peer into our hearts and minds and reach that state of spiritual bliss, which may or may not lead us to salvation. Within us lies a light, a light of thoughts, a light of sanity, of ethereal happiness the light that liberates, which may become divine at some point of time, if we make an effort.

Enlightenment is self-realization…knowing your true self, which may be different from the self you have been portraying to the world.

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment” –Laozi.

How much you know about yourself? It takes us almost whole of our life to know what lies in our heart and mind; as it keeps on changing.

There are stages when we don’t know what we want. If we are smart enough to figure out, one fine day we realize that our passion is not what we have been pursuing. What we like as teenagers, we may not feel comfortable with, as we grow up.

Our taste for food, our aesthetic sense, our likes and dislikes, our friends, our perspective on life changes and we move beyond the world of appearances. We feel enlightened when our intuition starts guiding us, when we can take mature decisions, when we take pride in our achievements.

So enlightenment begins with plunging into our hearts, analyzing our thoughts and reflecting on the kind of life we have been leading.

Slowly we realize we need another kind of enlightenment: Enlightenment is to know and understand people around us.

How little we know about people around us! This culture of adopting a non-interfering attitude makes us strangers to each other, getting immersed in the sea of our own plans and pains.

Is spiritual enlightenment of any use in such a scenario? Aren’t we too selfish to crave for it?

Can we really attain it if we are oblivious of the suffering around us?

To my mind, real enlightenment comes from helping mankind, from wiping out abuse, discrimination, violence and exploitation around us. Enlightenment doesn’t make us a better person if we seek it just for us. It doesn’t erase our desires or may put an end to our own suffering. In fact it is the suffering that ennobles us.

“Enlightenment, joy and peace can never be given to you by another. The well is inside you.” – Thich Nhat Hanh.

Is enlightenment beyond the reach of common man? I don’t think so.

Would you like to be enlightened in the real sense of the word? I would love to hear from your side.

© Balroop Singh

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Understanding Loneliness and Solitude

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Loneliness is fast becoming a social phenomenon in modern fast-paced times, with a smart phone in our hands, our elite companion 24/7! We are well-connected but it is cosmetic. Texting has given way to talking. Even couples, who bury their heads into their devices after a day’s work and also have to catch up with their favorite programs, have to plan a vacation to connect with each other.

Loneliness has a direct effect on emotions. It is more stressful than work related problems. You feel isolated and anxious, there is a feeling of disconnect despite people around you; you yearn for companionship, which may be there but you fail to recognize and reach out.

Whether it is self inflicted or caused by other factors, loneliness consumes your emotions slowly, affecting your mental and physical health. You start losing touch with your own family and friends.

When there is a conflict inside, which refuses to subside, you feel your friends are indifferent, you feel forsaken even by your own instincts and intuition, you start feeling lonely. When it starts haunting, when it grows on you, when the abyss keeps gaping at you, you enter a self-carved tunnel, which continues to get cramped if you don’t open up.

If you don’t feel like communicating your feelings, the roots of your loneliness could be deeper:
• Lack of love during childhoodLoneliness 2
• Bullying
• Loneliness experienced during adolescence
• Lack of good friends
• Cold attitude of peers
• Embarrassment
• Failure to communicate
• Lack of trust
• High expectations/ego
• Cynicism

Chasing away loneliness through joy, which is transitory, attending parties, which are mind numbing and drowning yourself in the sea of humanity, which knows nothing about your state of mind, is meaningless.

First and foremost, you must understand that nobody wants you to be lonely. It is your own choice. If you stop trusting your friends, if you don’t want to forgive others, if you fail to overlook little faults of people around you and immerse yourself in the sea of your own thoughts, it will surely drown you.

If you suffer from lowered self-esteem, lack of concentration and anxiety, they are the early signs, which might degenerate into insomnia, dejection and suicidal tendencies.
You must wake up to loneliness before it becomes clinical depression:

1. Shatter that glass ceiling under which you found refuge.
2. Start trusting people around you, all are not alike.
3. Share your feelings and thoughts.
4. Respect your emotions, they need attention.
5. Step out of self-pity. Don’t seek sympathy.
6. Read good books, they never betray.
7. Cultivate a hobby.

Let’s not forget another aspect of loneliness. There comes a time when loneliness spearheads detachment – to begin the inward journey to spirituality and for that we have to traverse the path alone.

However, loneliness should not be confused with solitude, which can be cherished by spending splendid time in the lap of nature, analyzing your own self, starting a journey toward self-healing.

Solitude is the privilege of the few: those who choose to halt, to deflect their attention to savor little moments and try to live within them. They are the ones who have tasted success and realized its futility. They love to spend time with their own self.
“Language … has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”—Paul Tillich

Do you live in the glory of solitude? I am sure everyone experiences those moments of loneliness and solitude. You can share them.

Thank you for reading this. Please share your valuable reflections, they are much appreciated.

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Balroop Singh.

Is it Good to Influence?

Master with puppet

Whenever we try to persuade a person to change his behavior, way of thinking or decisions, we cast the nets of influence on him. Some people do it with love, others with manipulation.

I think none of us can escape them as they are a part of our life, people connected with us in one way or the other. We don’t realize till a particular age, whether being influenced is the right approach. We don’t even know that somebody is trying to influence us.

We agree to follow, out of love, respect or admiration and slowly it becomes our habit. By the time we start resenting the influence, our core beliefs and values are already ingrained in us.

So what we become is, many times, the influence of our parents, teachers, siblings and peers. A lot of people live under the shadow of these influences all their life.

If we try to wriggle out, it is with immense effort and that might affect our dearest relationships.

Is it good to influence?

Most of the synonyms of influence are negative: clout, control, domination, pressure.

“There is no such thing as a good influence. Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions.”—Oscar Wilde.

Before arriving at any such definite conclusion, lets consider why do people influence:Personality

  • To win love or trust.
  • To wield their power or control.
  • To show their supremacy.
  • To intimidate.
  • To inculcate values.
  • To emphasize on their culture.

Love?

Friends, let me tell you very candidly that if you get influenced out of love and if you are ready to dance to the tunes of your partner or spouse because you love him/her, such love can never be real love. Love does not demand, it gives. It lets you ‘be’.

Trust?

Trust too can never be won by exerting influence, it is built bit by bit, it doesn’t just loom out of nowhere, it is won through unconditional love, love which doesn’t burden or force to follow a particular path just because somebody wants you to.

Control!

How do they manage to influence? They play with your emotions, pretend love and manipulate you so cleverly that you fail to see their wiles. Obviously, they are trying to control your way of thinking, restrict your activities and hover around you.

Supremacy!

When they want you to do what they like all the time, it is very clear that they try to establish their supremacy. Such people change your personality completely with their surreptitious ways before you realize it. Then there may be no turning back.

Intimidation!

There are such influencers too; who intimidate you into believing and doing what they think is right. Whether it is done with fabricated love or threats, any such influence, which smothers our opinion or coerces us to follow is repressive.

Values?

When you start living under the shadow of somebody, you lose your own personality and your own passions. In traditional and conservative societies, Influencers get an additional argument to impose their despotic views in the name of upholding their values and culture.

Only those who are insecure try to influence others but they wear a mask of tenacity.

Those with weak emotions, tender heart and kind demeanor can be easily influenced with a little potion of love.

Indecisive persons too get influenced effortlessly. Many times they become puppets in the hands of those whom they believe to be their well-wishers.

My own personality, which was molded by the furnace of time and circumstances, strengthened by the touchstone of varied experiences, has changed a bit due to the benevolence and graciousness of people around me but I have never felt trapped in the nets of influence. However, good influence is dwindling.

Do you know such influencers? Have you ever been influenced? Do you like it? I would love to hear all the answers.
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©Balroop Singh     

Are We Selfish?

Selfish-person-quotes-care-for-others-quotes

Are we selfish? When this question crops up in my mind, I try to seek an answer within myself first. Am I selfless? After much thinking and admonishing myself, I try to extract an honest answer out of my evasive mind…

“Well, we all have selfish tendencies –  it is only human,” my inner voice whispers.

At times I might have offered my services, done something good for others, without expecting anything in return. Is that enough?

I have given unconditional love to my children and family but another question confronts me…”doesn’t everybody do that?”

‘No, everybody doesn’t do that’, says my friend.

Why are children abandoned, abused, killed? Many of them grow up in acute neglect.

So I went on to search…what exactly is selfishness? While it was so confusing and mind boggling, two definitions appealed to me:

According to Wikipedia: “Selfishness is placing concern with oneself or one’s own interests above the well-being or interests of others.”

According to Oscar Wilde: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”

I again asked myself: Do I fit in here? I have never placed ‘my interest’ above but my inner voice slowly speaks: “sometimes, you have!”

I ignore that voice and tell myself: I have never asked others to live according to my wishes. But these arguments didn’t melt my doubts.

Why did I choose only these definitions? Because they suit me?

This reminds me of a woman who gave up her successful career to look after her ailing husband. She was applauded by everybody and was called selfless, but she admitted that she was selfish because she had placed her own concern over and above anything else.

“A selfless act out of even the purest desire to do for others, will be selfish in the satisfaction and happiness it brings to one doing it.”―Ashly Lorenzana

My friend thinks falling in love is also selfish! Isn’t that absurd? How can the basic human emotion make us selfish?

When I try to analyze further, I agree with the reasoning: Love makes people selfish. It crosses all boundaries, it transcends all values and it drags them away into their own world. “Love is the most selfish of all the passions,” said Alexandre Dumas.

I ponder further…

Even those who work for the welfare of others are selfish as they have their own goals in mind… perhaps they want fame, power, self-fulfillment or are eager to record their names in the pages of history.

So I realized that:

  • Selfishness can be defined according to one’s own perspective.
  • Selfish traits are inherent.
  • Self- interest takes us closer to our goals.
  • Selflessness doesn’t bring any rewards.
  • Sacrifices are mocked at in today’s world.
  • The more you acquire, more selfish you become, whether in terms of money or knowledge.
  • Selfish people are actually weak, insecure and unhappy.

Let’s look within:   

  • Are you kind and considerate?
  • Are you tolerant?
  • Do you listen to others?
  • Do you really understand the feelings of others?
  • Do you respect the opinion of others?

I know we all nod to the above questions without giving a profound and honest thought to them. I also hope these questions will keep guiding us toward better understanding and enhancing our personality.

If selfishness hurts you, don’t forget it hurts others too. A little concern for people around us makes us emotionally balanced and less selfish.

Have you come across selfish people? Do you have a different understanding of selfishness? It’s your turn to share your valuable opinion.

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© Balroop Singh