June 2015 By Jamuna Rangachari When challenges weigh heavily upon us, we can use the pressure to transform into diamonds, instead of sinking into self-pity, says Jamuna Rangachari Ashok Kurien: Living testimony to the power of will and hope The one thing common to all of us are so-called problems, challenges or ‘bad karma’. However there really is nothing called ‘bad’ karma. There are only situations we need to handle. Whatever the hand we may have been dealt, we need to play it to the very best of our capacity, without ever giving up. Eventually, victory will be ours, and what is more, we will have grown as human beings. By living thus, we can remain eternal heroes in the drama of life, no matter how fraught our situation. What is the game of karma? One may call it the cards one has been dealt with, destiny, fate or karma, but what matters is what we do with it. The greatest aspect of karma is that it is dynamic, just like a bank account. You can increase it or decrease it by the efforts you put in, and the attitude you cultivate. The literal meaning of karma means ‘work’ which indicates that it is the fruit of our own action. Thus what kind of karma we earn is actually in our control. No matter what baggage we may have to carry, how we deal with it is entirely in our control. When problems or challenges assail us, we may choose to see it as ‘bad karma’ but in actuality all challenges and problems are course correctors. If a broken relationship plunges us into grief, we could inquire how we contributed to its closure. If ill-health causes us pain, let us look at what we have done wrong. If we have lost a job, again, the focus of our query has to be on our actions. If we identify where we went wrong and learn the lesson it holds for us, after a while we will find ourselves free of the situation, and move into a higher level of vibration. What is more, there will be many gifts that will come our way. Karma is here to teach us valuable lessons, affirm all spiritual masters. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudeva says, “Karma is the seed; what you make of this seed is entirely up to you. The spiritual path is about removing all compulsiveness so that you can lead your life consciously, so every moment can become a choice. On this path, karma does not rule you; you rule karma.” Dada Vaswani concurs, saying, “We can overcome karma by adopting a positive attitude. Karma is one aspect of God, and God is Love. There is a meaning of mercy in every experience which God sends us.” I have certainly learnt most of my lessons of karma and life itself by reading and observing other people, and the way they handle their lives. Ashok Kurien Ashok Kurien’s story is a wonderful example of turning around bad karma into a source of goodness for himself and others. Ashok had, what he now calls, learning differences (difficulties to us) in the ‘60s. His teachers labelled him a failure and an irresponsible boy. Regular beatings turned him into a rebel. After failing the inter exams, he ran away from his home in Mumbai, got a job with a helicopter spraying company, and spent the next three years in hundreds of villages and small towns in South India. By the end of the third year, he was so depressed that he was ready to jump into a river and commit suicide. Fortunately, realisation struck him. “Either I had to have the guts to jump and end it all, or I had to have the guts to quit this job and go back to Mumbai, give one intense try to get a degree, and have some hope in life. I chose hope,” he says. He returned to Mumbai and enrolled in morning college. Whilst studying, he did odd jobs, sticking stamps at the Institute of Bankers for Rs 7 per day and eventually began selling advertising space for Debonair magazine. Meanwhile, he attempted one subject at a time, and finally cleared the exams. Working at Debonair, Ashok learnt how to sell, and this led to his first office job with the advertising agency, Rediffusion. Here, he heard words like marketing strategy and brand building for the first time. He started noticing his outstanding strength, which was the ability to break down a problem into its simplest form, and find a creative solution. His clients noticed this and Shilpa Shah of Garden Sarees convinced Kurien to begin his own agency, with her company as a flagship account. Thus, in 1987, with around Rs 5,000 in his pocket, Kurien set up Ambience Advertising. There were many successes after that in advertisements, television (he was the co-founder of Zee Television), and brand building. Today, Ashok can be credited with having redefined the face of advertisements, and for being a serial entrepreneur, as well. Every three years or so, he has found something new to start and says, ‘I never do anything on my own. I always have a partner. The one truth in partnership is that if your partner’s strengths are your weaknesses, and if your partner’s weaknesses are your strengths, then you have a team that is exceptionally powerful, because there is no conflict.” He is also a motivational speaker who recently gave a TedEx talk about the importance of asking ‘Why?’ Here, he reiterates what he tells everyone, that we should never be afraid to say that we don’t know or understand something. After he started earning reasonably well, he wanted to give some of it away. He had come in contact with a rehabilitation centre for street alcoholics called Mary’s Clan, started by Cyril D’Souza, a recovered alcoholic himself, at Mount Mary in Bandra. He decided to assist them financially as his late wife too had grappled with a serious addiction to alcohol. To make his giving more systematic, he later established his own Trust, The Ammada Trust, in 2002. His latest business venture, Livingguard, is a culmination of all his learning. It is a company that aims to give the poor pure and safe bacteria/virus free drinking water at a very low cost. Ashok feels he has found the purpose of his life, which is to use his business acumen to earn money, and use it for the good of others. Sai Padma I met Sai Padma and her husband, Mr. Pragnanand Busi, at a recent award ceremony in Delhi. She had travelled to receive the award from Visakhapatnam. Sai Padma does NGO work on health and education in coastal-based rural, tribal and semi-urban communities. Her joyous disposition and ready smile attracted me. We chatted and had a cup of tea while she introduced me to her attentive husband. “Is it not great karma that I have found such a wonderful soul mate who takes complete care of all my needs?” she asked me. It was then that I became fully aware that Sai Padma is a polio survivor with 70 per cent disability, and confined to a wheelchair. Astoundingly, one does not even notice this while in her company. She shared with me that things changed for her the moment she began talking openly about her disability, instead of hiding it under the carpet. When she stopped trying to hide it, others stopped noticing it! Jigna Chanpuna Whenever I talk to Jigna Chanpuna, she is full of positive energy and ideas. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), I was not too active at MSSI (Multiple Sclerosis Society of India) as I used to feel worried when I saw others in several stages of debility, and avoided their company to protect my feelings. She, on the other hand, thought she should help others to the maximum extent possible. Jigna had to leave her job because of her ailment in 2010, but soon became better. She gave up steroids when she found that they were not helping her and turned to homeopathy. Additionally with the help of a physiotherapist she began to walk regularly until she was able to walk alone and unaided. Taking back the threads of her life, she took up a job at a preschool near her house where she worked with children on creative activities, while volunteering at MSSI. In fact, Jigna terms the last decade of her life from the age of 28 in 2004, when she suffered her first MS attack, to today at 38 as ‘an amazing journey’ because it taught her to be strong and remain positive. Never giving up on life, Jigna runs marathons at her pace, even completing the half marathon in 2012. She is surely a role model and inspiration for everyone today. Maj Devender Pal Singh I met Major Devender Pal Singh recently and was greatly impressed with his verve and vigour in all aspects of life. He was injured badly in the Kargil war and was even thought dead. After an initial bout of depression, he redefined his goals. His own life is indeed the best motivation he could give anyone. Defying destiny, he now shines as India’s only amputee marathon runner or blade runner. “My battle earlier was for my motherland, now it is to make people realise they can take part in sports whatever their condition may be,” he said. His mission today is to motivate other physically challenged (whom he calls The Challengers) people to change their attitude from feeling helpless to fight their ailment and shine in sports and adventure fields. A diamond in the making All of us need to keep sculpting ourselves in life. My own opportunity to sculpt myself came when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007. Initially I was traumatized, but I kept looking for solutions, while hoping and praying that there would be some cure for my ailment. This did not seem to be likely in the allopathic world, hence I started gradually accepting that I may have some physical limitations and I tried my best to remain positive and productive in one way or the other. At this stage, perhaps because I had learnt many karmic lessons, I found acupuncture, which restored me back to wellness. We know that most natural diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure. If there was no pressure, the diamond would
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