Monk or Thespian?

10th October, 2017. From a distance, Gaur Gopal Das Prabhuji looked like a thespian playing a monk. It was the intricately painted bindi, saffron attire, and shaved head that gave such an impression. Upon taking a closer look, another detail was revealed. Prabhuji was wearing an Apple Watch! Somehow, this detail discredited the entire get-up because monks aren’t supposed to wear Apple Watches, are they?

Well, this is probably what a twenty-first century monk looks like. Unless, just like an amateur thespian he, too, had forgotten to consider the minor details of getting into character.

Such doubts preceded the interaction. The weekly meeting took place at the Rendezvous, a venue that is housed on the 15th floor of the Taj Hotel. It has always encouraged an intimate interaction between rotarians and the speaker. The staff drew the curtains upon the room’s windows as soon as the speaker was summoned to address the audience. When they did so, the colours of the room began to settle to their deeper hues, until the chandelier lit up. Prabhuji then began chanting in Sanskrit.

After that he asked, “How many of you would like to be happy?” Only a few raised their hands. So he asked, “How many of you are already happy?” Many more in the audience raised their hands. To this he jokingly suggested, “Why don’t you speak, and I listen?” He then discussed his concept of the “Happiness Quotient.”

To arrive at the concept, he used a series of metaphors. The first one was the experience of flying- airplane flying. “The take-off is beyond us, the landing is beyond us, and the turbulence is beyond us.” Similarly, our birth was beyond us, our death is beyond us, and the turbulence in our journeys, from birth to death, will always be beyond us. However, “I’ve always said that the choices that we make are within our control.”

According to Prabhuji, “by default” we are going to face hurdles in our lives, but we have the choice of either wading through the dull moments or sailing through them. “Whether it is a relationship crisis, a personal crisis, or a taxation crisis, we are shaken up, and what is within comes out easily.” He used a can of soda and a bottle of water to explain the underlying facet of “making the right choice.”

In his opinion, “the purpose of spirituality is to bridge the gap between being a can of soda and a bottle of water.” And if that is the first step towards living a happy life, the second, as suggested by Prabhuji, comes after we correct our equation for arriving at happiness.

Happiness is not inversely or directly proportional to what we have because “the rich are crying in their Lamborghinis and the poor are crying for a piece of bread. And the middle-class are shuttling back and forth in a PDG Gulam Vahanvaty accepts the distinguished honor with modesty.local train to make ends meet. So who is happy?”

The answer lay in the last slide of Prabhuji’s presentation, and its revelation was the highlight of the interaction that put all doubts to rest: The monk was but a thespian playing his part on the stage called life. The slide read: Happiness has nothing to do with what you have, it is an internal state.