Conversations reveal what we really are… and not just the way we want others to think about us. This is as true of face-to-face conversation as it is for those that take place in the virtual world. In fact, I am convinced that online conversations, especially those where comments and observations are left for others to respond at leisure, can be the ultimate psycho-analyst for us all.

Let me give you an example. Someone says something as a status update on facebook… and then others jump in to join and convert this into a conversation of sorts… conversations become spicier and laced with malice if an outsider tends to stumble into even a seemingly tame discussion. I read this sequence on facebook just a few days back:

(Names have been disguised)

MA has this status update: “I am guessing that it must be more fun to be a muni (who remains silent) than a rishi (who has to articulate the truth for the juniors). Which one would you rather be?”

3 people like this. (Online responses, especially on FB, have this intrinsic advantage of showing solidarity without taking any pains… you just click the ‘like’ button to be instantly ushered into the inner circle of even strangers!)

MM has this rather cryptic response: “Silent!!!”

MA feels that a response is essential: “Thats one word which loses itself the moment it is out! Ha ha ha ha! Gottcha MM.”

Now there is some NJ who offers to lay bare his mind: “Like to be RISHIMUNI!”

MA, the originator, is now warming up to this task of leading opinion and feels that silence is to be shunned: “No such thing (oops!) exists, NJ. Ramana started off being a muni but he succumbed to the pests and became a rishi.

SB now joins this complex conversation and punches helpfully: “Muni.”

EK introduces a new dimension to this ongoing conversation: “When a complete annihilation (death to the self) spontaneously happens, a genuine ‘muni’ arises (by default)… and this cannot be ‘done’!… when it is just a life-style or practice, it may be a pseudo ‘muni’ at best 🙂 Nevertheless, spontaneous moments of complete silence are naturally experienced by all (mostly unconsciously)… ah! not to mention ‘deep sleep’; the most natural death to the self, (this happens every night 🙂

MA is again obliged to ‘like’ this comment by EK. Such are the pressures of these online conversations, that people must really know when to press which button!

SG bravely remarks: “Who cares? Speaking happens when there is a need.”

Ram offers his contribution: “I would like to be Rishi Muni.”

Javed writes: “Muni…any day.”

The conversation seems to be fast dwindling into ‘shut-brain’ choice-making which can spell disaster to its very existence, more so if the originator is trying to sell some service or product disguised as erudition. So MA quickly jumps in: “Ramakrishna says that those who eat the mangoes and wipe off their mouths are munis, and those who share the mangoes are rishis. Now which one would you like to be?”

A new angle or perspective, a fresh take is offered… but there seem to be no takers, so MA now adds to her statement: “As for me, I want to eat the Mango. Who cares what happens after…”

Anuradha, a new entrant, timidly hazards her choice: “I would like to be Muni, but I guess I am more suited to be a Rishi.”

The stage is now set for an outsider to stumble in, create a ruckus by being aggressive… it is true that facebook survives and is popular because of trespassers like this ‘narad’ (lets call this stranger a Narad!). They come like a whirlwind, shake people and their tame opinions and just move on to some other conversation…


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Narad says: “India rishiyon ka desh hai. Yahan munivar koi nahin. Though when it comes to mangoes, our rishis eat them and also wipe their mouth… they share only big talk, big words, and big ideas because they can then make big money.

MA is appropriately shocked to find her placid world on the verge of being violently overtaken by this alien, and says: “Amazing, Narad. You know ALL Indians, do you, to assume this? In fact, there are thousands of Munis out there, the silent souls who sit next to you on a bus, or serve you tea in a restaurant, and you wonder why you are suddenly feeling so light. But I guess you never ever met any of them? Open your heart my dear. God is all around.”

MA is ably supported by another roaring friend, Tiger, who chips in: “I wanna be the Muni with the sweet taste of mango filling my senses, and then I will stop telling all the wanna-be Rishi’s to get off my case!!!!”

MA suddenly makes a cryptic remark: “?@Tiger, You mean, like the bhajan, ‘Na Guru na shishyam, Shivoham Shivoham’?

Narad, meanwhile, feels that he cannot leave the battlefield without shedding some more blood: “You seem to be labouring under some severe misconceptions, MA. The world is indeed full of silent karma yogis who don’t shout themselves hoarse… though that doesn’t qualify them all to be munis. If you wish to wallow & feel light in your deceptive definition of a muni, go ahead, fly around as much as u want… though please stop converting munis and rishis into their chiklit avataars for the sake of a foreign audience! :)”

Tiger, inexplicably, seems to be disturbed by this stranger, narad, and responds even before MA has probably read his rejoinder: “Narad. What is your problem?! Do you object to fellow human beings sharing some light banter? Some poetry? Ramana had a lot of Westerners come to see him, would you have advocated that they all be sent home? And it is hardly as if Western thinking has nothing to share… seems like you are being a bit precious here and think only India (and Indians) have the truth… “

Narad: “?@Tiger, I think I am as much entitled to express my opinion as you or anyone else is to their ‘light banter’… 🙂 And did I really say anything against any individual…westerner or otherwise? Anyway, enjoy your mangoes while they last. (and this isn’t to be mis-perceived as anything but a few words with metaphysics woven into them)”

The stranger is obviously upbeat at the kind of attention he had managed to get… and is fascinated by the feathers he seems to have ruffled. He hums ‘mission accomplished’ to himself and waits for the next barb.

Tiger: “MA, please always stay with the light. Converting munis and rishi’s, and your foreign audience is such playful fun. It makes more sense than the silly games of taking spirituality too seriously. If you want to be an academic and a purist, that is fine too, if you want to be a bhakti playing with the heart, that is fine too, and if you want to be an atheist that is moved and touched by the magnificence of life, that too is just fine and need not be run past anyone for their okay!”

MA has no other alternative but to add: “Narad, the only foreigner in my world is he who sings out of tune in the satsang. Take your song elsewhere, please. Here we are open only to devotees, fools, etc.”

This is the only place where MA has spoken something that actually reflects some major facts and truths of social networking friendships and relationships:

1.    Groups are formed with defined aims and tend to have leadership roles outlined. These leaders can be selling or promoting a service or an ideology or simply pampering their innermost urge to have followers.
2.    Outsiders are treated with disdain and are distanced if they do not immediately display a conformist attitude.
3.    Discussions remain ‘healthy’ so long as someone doesn’t make group-beliefs come tumbling down.
4.    Humour at the expense of group-help opinions and ideas are generally not acceptable and the stranger is labeled ‘Narad’ before being pushed out!
5.    Finally, the only redeeming feature of these online relationships is that so long as there are Narads, there will be conversations that breath life.

But anyway, the conversation did not really end there. MA continued: “Tiger, when are you coming to Bangalore? We have to go shopping! I have never shopped with a fellow fool before. :)”

And Tiger immediately replied: “Me too! I was always a solo fool and never really did the girlie-thing. So yes. When is good for you?”

MA: “Come next weekend, since you wanna do the workshop too. How about we shop on friday and write on saturday? I am free on Friday.”

Tiger: “Perfect!”

This last part of the conversation proves that my conclusions are quite correct and that even ‘silly banter’ does zero-in to economics invariably!

Before I end, let me also tell you that I actually contacted ‘Narad’ and asked him what he really felt about rishis and munis… and he sent me something that he had read on the net:

“Rishi: A person who is neither Muni nor tapaswi is called Rishi.
Muni: A person who is neithr Rishi Nor Tapaswi is called Muni.
Tapaswi: A person who is both Rishi and Muni is called Tapaswi.”

I gather then, that ‘muni’ sounds very endearing, soft, and a learner whereas ‘rishi’ has already evolved into someone who knows the world inside-out and is able to argue and present facts as a hybrid between Praveen Sibal and Ramchand Guha!.

Why did I call this Molotov cocktail of a personality a NARAD? Simple. Narad is known as a purpose-filled strife-creator in all the 3 worlds… and his sole purpose was to put an end to the negative energies that he noticed anywhere. He did this through well thought of plots and political maneuverings, though. He knew what will alter states of mind and what will create the right effect that makes people realize their blunders and, maybe, learn a lesson or two. MA and tiger still have a long way to go… maybe another teacher another time shall appear when they are ready to accept.

If people like MA and tiger happen to read this, let me also say that Narad was a ‘Devrishi’ because he was a thinker like a Muni and, like a Rishi, knew and understood what renunciation was all about!

An article by Arvind Passey
19 october 2010

© Arvind Passey