Practical Guidelines For Doing The Yoga Of Sri Aurobindo And The Mother

“Is the Divine the supreme fact of your life, so much so that it is simply impossible for you to do without it? Do you feel that your very raison d’être is the Divine and without it there is no meaning in your existence? If so, then only can it be said that you have a call for the Path.”

“The ideal Sadhaka should be able to say in the Biblical phrase, ‘My zeal for the Lord has eaten me up.”

“To be conscious, first of all. We are conscious of only an insignificant portion of our being; for the most part we are unconscious. It is this unconsciousness that keeps us down to our unregenerate nature and prevents change and transformation in it. It is through unconsciousness that the undivine forces enter into us and make us their slaves. You are to be conscious of yourself, you must awake to your nature and movements, you must know why and how you do things or feel or think them; you must understand your motives and impulses, the forces, hidden and apparent, that move you; in fact, you must, as it were, take to pieces the entire machinery of your being.
“Once you are conscious, it means that you can distinguish and sift things, you can see which are the forces that pull you down and which help you on.
“And when you know the right from the wrong, the true from the false, the divine from the undivine, you are to act strictly up to your knowledge; that is to say, resolutely reject one and accept the other.
“The duality will present itself at every step and at every step you will have to make your choice. You will have to be patient and persistent and vigilant — ‘sleepless’, as the adepts say; you must always refuse to give any chance whatever to the undivine against the divine.”

“When you want to do sadhana, at each moment of your life, there is a choice between taking a step that leads to the goal and falling asleep or sometimes even going backwards, telling yourself, ‘Oh, later on, not immediately’ — sitting down on the way.
“To be vigilant is not merely to resist what pulls you downward, but above all to be alert in order not to lose any opportunity to progress, any opportunity to overcome a weakness, to resist a temptation, any opportunity to learn something, to correct something, to master something. If you are vigilant, you can do in a few days what would otherwise take years. If you are vigilant, you change each circumstance of your life, each action, each movement into an occasion for coming nearer the goal.
“There are two kinds of vigilance, active and passive. There is a vigilance that gives you a warning if you are about to make a mistake, if you are making a wrong choice, if you are being weak or allowing yourself to be tempted, and there is the active vigilance which seeks an opportunity to progress, seeks to utilise every circumstance to advance more quickly.
“There is a difference between preventing yourself from falling and advancing more quickly.
“And both are absolutely necessary.”

“Do not lend yourself to the superficial forces which move in the outside world. Even if you are in a hurry to do something, step back for a while… Always keep your peace, resist all temptation to lose it. Never decide anything without stepping back, never speak a word without stepping back, never throw yourself into action without stepping back.”

“All that belongs to the ordinary world is impermanent and fugitive, so there is nothing in it worth getting upset about. What is lasting, eternal, immortal and infinite — that indeed is worth having, worth conquering, worth possessing. It is Divine Light, Divine Love, Divine Life — it is also Supreme Peace, Perfect Joy and All-Mastery upon earth with the Complete Manifestation as the Crowning. When you get the sense of relativity of things, then whatever happens, you can step back and look; you can remain quiet and call on the Divine Force and wait for an answer. Then you will know exactly what to do.”

“The Divine that we adore is not only a remote extracosmic Reality, but a half-veiled Manifestation present and near to us here in the universe. Life is the field of a divine manifestation not yet complete: here, in life, on earth, in the body … we have to unveil the Godhead; here we must make its transcendent greatness, light and sweetness real to our consciousness, here possess and, as far as may be, express it.”

“… you have always had an idea that to give expression to an impulse or a movement is the best way or even the only way to get rid of it. But that is a mistaken idea. If you give expression to anger, you prolong or confirm the habit of the recurrence of anger; you do not diminish or get rid of the habit. The very first step towards weakening the power of anger in the nature and afterwards getting rid of it altogether is to refuse all expression to it in act or speech. Afterwards one can go on with more likelihood of success to throw it out from the thought and feeling also. And so with all other wrong movements.”

Whenever faced with a surging wrong impulse in oneself, which is strongly seeking an outlet of expression, one often offers a lame excuse whose form is somewhat like this: “Well, if I do it this time, I shall be convinced that it is after all bad and I shall do it no longer. As a matter of fact this is the last time I am allowing myself to to it, and that with the laudable intention of being convinced of its undesirability through actual experience which will surely purify me by effective purging.”
But this method does not work at all; for the theory is not based on psychological facts of human nature. Instead of being purified, one gets still more engrossed in the impulse and weakness, making a future deliverance much more difficult.
No, instead of indulging in the weakness even for once, what the sadhaka has to do is to take a very firm resolve on the very first occasion itself and say to oneself: “Well, this time itself, I shall not do it; I shall apply all my strength to prevent its expression in speech and action.”
Yes, one must concentrate only on scoring this first stage of victory over the impulse. Whatever outlet the moment’s impulse is seeking from the sadhaka for its expression, has to be blocked altogether: one need not for the time being waste one’s energy or effort in tackling its inner turmoil in the sadhaka’s consciousness.
Of course, the urge, the desire, the passion will still be there in the sadhaka’s heart producing churnings and whirls there, but outside one does resist its manifestation. This is not suppression; it is only a stratagem of battle. One should stand like a rock and resolve not to carry out the dictate in action suggested by the impulse.
If the sadhaka can do this every time the resultant impulse becomes strong, it will be found that the insistent urge is gradually losing its intensity; also, the frequency of its appearance will progressively diminish.

“All forces upon earth tend towards expressing themselves. These forces come with the object of manifesting themselves, and if you place a barrier and refuse expression, they may try to beat against the barrier for a time, but in the end, they will tire themselves out and not being manifested, they will withdraw…”

“The effective order is to begin from the outside: ‘The very first thing is that I do not do it, and afterwards, I desire it no longer and next I close my doors completely to all impulses: they no longer exist for me, I am now outside all that.’ This is the true order, the order that is effective. First, not to do it. And then you will no longer desire and after that it will go out of your consciousness completely.”

“this is the reason why there is a constant confusion and even a conflict in our members which our mental reason and will are moved to control and harmonise and have often much difficulty in creating out of their confusion or conflict some kind of order and guidance; even so, ordinarily, we drift too much or are driven by the stream of our nature and act from whatever in it comes uppermost at the time and seizes the instruments of thought and action,… even our seemingly deliberate choice is more of an
automatism than we imagine…”

“The Purusha above is not only a Witness, he is the giver (or withholder) of the sanction; if he persistently refuses the sanction to a movement of Prakriti, keeping himself detached, then, even if it goes on for a time by its past momentum, it usually loses its hold after a time, becomes more feeble, less persistent, less concrete and in the end fades away… This refusal of sanction need not mean a struggle with the lower Prakriti; it should be a quiet, persistent, detached refusal leaving unsupported, unassented to, without meaning or justification, the contrary action of the nature.”

‘There are four movements which are usually consecutive, but which in the end may be simultaneous: to observe one’s thoughts and feelings is the first, to watch over one’s thoughts and feelings is the second, to control one’s thoughts and feelings is the third, and to master one’s thoughts and feelings is the fourth. To observe, to watch over, to control, to master. All that to get rid of an evil mind.
‘A purified mind is naturally a mind that does not admit any wrong thought and feeling, and the complete mastery to gain this result is the last achievement in the four stages.
‘The very first stage, to observe one’s thoughts and feelings, is not such an easy thing. For to observe your thoughts and feelings, you must first of all separate yourself from them. The first movement then is to step back and look at them, so that the movement of the observing consciousness and that of thoughts and feelings may not be confused.
‘Now comes the second stage of watching over one’s thoughts and feelings. Learn to look them as an enlightened judge so that you may distinguish between the good and the bad, between those thoughts and feelings that are useful and those that are harmful, between constructive movements that lead to victory and defeatist ones which turn us away from it. It is this power of discernment that we must acquire at this second stage.
‘Now comes the stage of control; this is the third step of our psychological discipline. Once the enlightened judge of our consciousness has distinguished between useful and harmful thoughts and feelings, the inner guard will come and allow to pass only approved thoughts and feelings, strictly refusing admission to all undesirable elements. It is this movement of admission and refusal that we call control and this constitutes the third stage of the discipline.
‘The fourth stage, that of mastery over the wrong movements, follows almost automatically upon the successful completion of the three previous stages. For, a total sincerity on the part of the sadhaka will make him immune for all practical purposes from the attacks of the undesirable forces.’

“to pretend that you want to live the spiritual life and not to do it, to pretend that you want to seek the truth and not to do it, to display the external signs of consecration to the divine life… but within to be concerned only with oneself, one’s selfishness and one’s own needs.”

“You must make haste to do your work here, for it is here that you can truly do it.
“Expect nothing from death. Life is your salvation.
“It is in life that you must transform yourself. It is upon earth that you progress and it is upon earth that you realise. It is in the body that you win the Victory.”

“All life is a secret Yoga, an obscure growth of Nature towards the discovery and fulfillment of the divine principle hidden in her which becomes progressively less obscure, more self-conscient and luminous, more self-possessed in the human being by the opening of all his instruments of knowledge, will, action, life to the Spirit within him and in the world.”

“The secret of success in Yoga is to regard it not as one of the aims to be pursued in life, but as the whole of life.”

“This, in short, is the demand made on us, that we should turn our whole life into a conscious sacrifice. Every moment and every movement of our being is to be resolved into a continuous and a devoted self-giving to the Eternal. All our actions, not less the smallest and most ordinary and trifling than the greatest and most uncommon and noble, must be performed as consecrated acts. Our individualised nature must live in the single consciousness of an inner and outer movement dedicated to Something that is beyond us and greater than our ego. No matter what the gift and to whom it is presented by us, there must be a consciousness in the act that we are presenting it to the one divine Being in all beings.”

“It is not … the giving of the thing asked for that matters, but the relation itself, the contact of man’s life with God, the conscious interchange. In spiritual matters and in the seeking of spiritual gains, this conscious relation is a great power; it is a much greater power than our own entirely self-reliant struggle and effort and it brings a fuller spiritual growth and experience.”

  • – Sri Aurobindo and The Mother
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Stepping Stones For The Right Attitude To Do The Yoga Of Sri Aurobindo And The Mother

“…we have set out to conquer all ourselves and the world for God; we are determined to give him our becoming as well as our being…”

“Life is the field of a divine manifestation not yet complete: here, in life, on earth, in the body … we have to unveil the Godhead; here we must make its transcendent greatness, light and sweetness real to our consciousness, here possess and, as far as may be, express it. Life then we must accept in our Yoga in order utterly to transmute it; we are forbidden to shrink from the difficulties that this acceptance may add to our struggle.”

“When the soul draws towards the Divine, there may be a resistance in the mind and the common form of that is denial and doubt — which may create mental and vital suffering. There may again be a resistance in the vital nature whose principal character is desire and the attachment to the objects of desire… The physical consciousness also may offer a resistance which is usually that of a fundamental inertia, an obscurity in the very stuff of the physical… There is, moreover, the resistance of the Universal Nature which does not want the being to escape from the Ignorance into the Light.”

“The integral yoga consists of an unbroken series of examinations which one has to pass without being given any previous intimation, which therefore puts you under the necessity of being always alert and attentive.”

“The three types of examination are (1) that set by the forces of Nature, (2) that set by the spiritual and divine forces, and (3) that set by the hostile forces. The last are the most deceptive in their appearance and if one is not to be taken by surprise or unprepared, one has to be constantly in a state of vigilance and sincerity and humility.”

“God is our wise and perfect friend, because he knows when to smite and when to fondle, when to slay us no less than when to save and to succour… There must be faith in the love and wisdom of God, … working out all for our good even when it is apparently veiled in evil.”

“A sattwic gladness and calm and confidence is the proper temperament for this yoga [the Integral Yoga]…”

“in absolute reliance on the Mother,fearing nothing, sorrowing over nothing…” in “…a glad equanimity even in the face of difficulties…”

“The ways of the Divine are not like those of the human mind or according to our patterns and it is impossible to judge them or to lay down for Him what He shall or shall not do, for the Divine knows better than we can know. If we admit the Divine at all, both true reason and Bhakti seem to me to be at one in demanding implicit faith and surrender.”

“Remember the true basis of yoga… Obedience to the divine Will, nor assertion of self-will is the very first mantra … learn thou first absolutely to obey.”

“Let Thy Will be done”

“The ego-centric man feels and takes things as they affect him. Does this please me or displease, give me gladness or pain, flatter my pride, vanity, ambition or hurt it, satisfy my desires or thwart them, etc. The unegoistic man does not look at things like that. He looks to see what things are in themselves and would be if he were not there, what is their meaning, how they fit into the scheme of things — or else he feels calm and equal, refers everything to the Divine…” “…he learns to make not the ego but the Divine the centre of his existence and thinks, acts, feels only for the Divine…”

“A guidance, a governance begins from within which exposes every movement to the light of Truth, repels what is false, obscure, opposed to the divine realisation: every region of the being, every nook and corner of it, every movement, formation, direction, inclination of thought, will,emotion, sensation, action, reaction, motive, disposition, propensity, desire, habit of the conscious or subconscious physical, even the most concealed, camouflaged, mute, recondite, is lighted up with the unerring psychic light, their confusions dissipated, their tangles disentangled, their obscurities, deceptions, self-deceptions precisely indicated and removed…”

“If you want to do yoga, you must get rid of fear.”
“The first condition of progress in sadhana is not to fear, to have trust and keep quiet…”
“Fear is the first thing that must be thrown away…”
“To put away fear and have confidence in the divine working is indispensable.”
“… the yogi must be fearless, abhi; it is absurd to have a fear because one can control one’s states; that is a power very much to be desired and welcomed in yoga.”

“No protection, no Grace can save those who refuse the indispensable purification. And I would add this: that fear is an impurity, one of the greatest impurities, one of those which come most directly from the anti-divine forces which want to destroy the divine action on earth; and the first duty of those who really want to do yoga is to eliminate from their consciousness, with all the might, all the sincerity, all the endurance of which they are capable, even the shadow of a fear. To walk on the path, one must be dauntless, and never indulge in that petty, small, feeble, nasty shrinking back upon oneself, which is fear.”

“Patience is our first great necessary lesson… a patience full of a calm and gathering strength.”
“Those who hope violently, despair swiftly: neither hope nor fear, but be sure of God’s purpose and thy will to accomplish.”

“The road of Yoga is long, every inch of ground has to be won against much resistance and no quality is more needed by the sadhaka than patience and single-minded perseverance with a faith that remains firm through all difficulties, delays and apparent failures.”

“If there are good desires, bad desires will come also. There is a place for will and aspiration, not for desire. If there is desire there will be attachment, demand, craving, want of equanimity, sorrow at not getting, all that is unyogic.”

“has no personal hopes; he does not seize on things as his personal possessions; he receives what the divine Will brings him, covets nothing, is jealous of none: what comes to him he takes without repulsion and without attachment; what goes from him he allows to depart into the whirl of things without repining or grief or sense of loss. His heart and self are under perfect control; they are free from reaction and passion, they make no turbulent response to the touches of outward things.”

“You must make haste to do your work here and now… Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.”

“The path of later-on and the road of to-morrow lead only to the castle of nothing-at-all.”

“…the hours, circumstances, life pass in vain, bringing nothing, and you awake from your somnolence in a hole from which it is very difficult to escape.”

“While walking on the path of spiritual advancement, whenever you come face to face with a weakness — a weakness which is seeking self-expression through your thought and feeling and speech or action, immediately you take the resolve not to indulge it in any way, not even for once, not even for this time alone. Otherwise you will never realise your goal.”

“A drop of practice is better than an ocean of theories, advices and good resolutions.”

‘Many come to the Path, attracted by the True Thing, but after some time one lets oneself go. When everything is easy and peaceful, one falls asleep. The human nature is still so crude that it becomes difficult for many to keep the inner attitude unmixed for a long time and to hold firm in one’s original position of ardent aspiration. Almost inevitably laziness takes the place of this aspiration — not for everyone, but in quite a general way — and licence and libertinism take the place of true freedom. There are no moral constraints and so one acts foolishly. It seems it is almost impossible for many an aspirant to make their first aspiration last long.’

“Vigilance means to be awake, to be on one’s guard, to be sincere — never to be taken by surprise. When you want to do sadhana, at each moment of your life, there is a choice between taking a step that leads to the goal and falling asleep or sometimes even going backwards, telling yourself, ‘Oh, later on, not immediately’ — sitting down on the way.”

“…if we desire to make the most of the opportunity that this life gives us, if we wish to respond adequately to the call we have received and to attain to the goal we have glimpsed, not merely advance a little towards it, it is essential that there should be an entire self-giving. The secret of success in Yoga is to regard it not as one of the aims to be pursued in life, but as the whole of life.”

-Sri Aurobindo and The Mother

The Practice Of Writing The Mantras Written By Sri Aurobindo

The practice of writing of mantras written by Sri Aurobindo may help in developing aspiration as well as surrender to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. As one writes, it is useful to say the words out loud or mentally and calmly concentrate either in the centre of the chest or the centre of the head.

I write each of the following mantras in this manner once every day.

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How To Accomplish Little And Feel Great

At no time in the world will a man who is sane
Over-reach himself,
Over-spend himself,
Over-rate himself.
-Lao Tzu

All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?
-Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

Sell not yourself at little price,
being so precious in God’s eyes.
-Rumi

The world wants you to be the best you can be. The message is relentless and you may not have even thought of trying anything less. It has brainwashed you into believing that striving for success is essential for your well-being. What does “best” mean and can everybody be “best”. Many times, striving for best is actually killing you. Well, to be contented and happy you can get away from giving less than your very best. It is about finding the right balance and the right amount of effort and that is a lot less than what you have been led to believe. You will then realize that your commitment to excellence is the source of your trouble. Then you will start to turn everything down a notch.

Mediocrity is the key to happiness. The world does not really care. It is a simple fact of life that your successes and failures really do not matter to nearly everybody alive. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will feel comfortable and get on with underachievement. Even your friends, colleagues, neighbors and family do not really care for your success; because success is often relative and if you succeed, they have relatively lost. Our sense of satisfaction is relative to our standing relative to others and if we have less we suffer. This constant comparison with people who are more successful, smarter or beautiful breeds frustration and jealousy. It is suffering. But we all do it. Why?

We have been taught that achievement is our friend. We get positive feedback and rewards for achieving things and negative feedback and punishment for failing to achieve. There is nothing wrong in trying to improve ourselves but we kid ourselves into thinking that achievement is absolutely essential, like an addiction in order to live well. But what it does is it corrupts our bodies, minds, feelings, heart and soul. So the key is to retrain your mind and soul, to develop healthy attitudes to ensure that you never fall into the trap of high-intensity, strive-for-success-at-all-costs thinking. 

Now, let us explore the ten principles of underachievement:

Life’s too short. We all think that we are going to live for ever. But remember, nobody has got out of this world alive so far. In geologic time, that is less than a second away. You can drive yourself into a frenzy trying to do as much as you can while you are here, or you can relax and enjoy your split second. It’s your choice.

Control is an illusion. None of us is in total control of our lives, and if you think you are, then you are under a delightful illusion. Most of your life is not under your control, including your success, wealth, etc. So just relax, and live.

Expectations lead to misery. Because when you have a expectation, there is a good chance that something will go amiss.

Great expectations lead to great misery.

Achievement creates expectations. Expectations to do better, and better, and better, and…. suffering.

The law of diminishing returns applies everywhere. Benefits don’t continue to accrue at the same rate as effort or investment, whether it is money, swimming pool, tennis court, pool table, penthouse, or the 100 dollar wine bottle. At some point, in almost any endeavor, the curve flattens out and may even begin to dip. More is not always better, and good enough is good enough.

Perfect is the enemy of the good. If you want to be perfect, then the adequate, enjoyable, or even plain good won’t do  and that is horrible. If something is worth doing at all, sometimes it worth doing imperfectly.

The tallest blade of grass is sure to be cut. Accomplishment is not usually the source of admiration, it is usually the source of envy and resentment. If you are the best, make sure others do not recognize it.

Accomplishment is in the eye of the beholder. Do you really care about what someone has achieved in an activity you neither know or care a whit about?

The 4% value added principle. We are 96% identical to chimpanzees. The most successful and most unaccomplished people-all of us. So being alive itself is a great achievement.

So,

Work slowly and steadily, like the tortoise, not the hare. Make sure you spend time with family rather than be always at work. Spend time on hobbies and things you really like to do. Remember that ugly people have good sex too. Assume that there are many perfect mates you can find and if you have found one already, remember that one is good enough. Don’t demand perfection in your relationships and don’t create expectations in your relationships. Eat what you like in moderation; after all this body is going to rot someday and starving is not going to prevent it. Don’t spend a lot of money on fitness. Just walk. Do something with your upper body. Stretch yourself. Sleep a lot. Be satisfied with little. Then the wealth ratio: what you have/what you want is >1 and you have money to invest which you can put in index funds and match the market and beat 98% of people over the long run. If you live this way you will have healthier, durable relationships, more time to enjoy a wide variety of activities and save money. Don’t stress your kids too much; allow them to blossom in their own way and time. Encourage them but do not pressurize them. Kids are messy and life is messy too but beautiful. Enjoy the messiness. Realize that you are part of the Divine as is everybody else and evolution towards realizing our oneness with the Divine never ends as is the Divine expressing Himself in Her world. We are all on the path and the path is everywhere.

Once you do the above,

serenity
peaceful work relations
moderate fitness
smooth commutes
friendship
humble faith
sustainable economic growth
low blood pressure
contentment

is all yours for the taking.

Underachievement is the key to happiness in your life, and for everyone else around you. Stop worrying about not being perfect. Dedicate yourselves to the pleasures and benefits of mediocrity. Remember, underachievement is not about doing nothing. It’s about the right effort at the right time, in the right place. And not one bit more. Go ahead and start living life to the minimum. Don’t strive for success against your own best interests. Don’t take any so-called achievement seriously. Because you are already good enough.

You must always work not just within, but below your means. If you can handle three elements, handle only two. If you can handle ten, then handle only five. In that way, the one you do handle, you handle with more ease, more mastery, and you create a feeling of strength in reserve.

Pablo Picasso

notes from the book: The Underachiever’s Manifesto by Ray Bennett 

Stories 52: What We Really Want

The abbot woke up early one morning. Nothing unusual in that. But this morning he was awakened by the sound of something moving in the nearby shrine room. That was unusual because most of his monks would normally be practicing their morning “chanting” at this time (“Zzzzzz . . .”) so he went to investigate.

In the darkness he saw a silhouette of a hooded figure. It was a burglar.

“What do you want, my friend?” said the abbot kindly.

“Gimme the key to the donation box, punk!” said the burglar brandishing a long, sharp knife.

The abbot saw the weapon but felt no fear. He felt only compassion for the young man.

“Certainly,” he said, slowly handing over the key.

As the thief frantically emptied the box of cash, the abbot noticed the robber’s jacket was torn, his face pale and gaunt.

“When was the last time you have eaten, dear boy?”

“Shuddup!” barked the burglar.

“You’ll find some food in the cupboard next to the donation box. Help yourself.”

The thief paused a moment in confusion. He was taken aback by the abbot’s consideration for his welfare. Still, pointing the knife at the monk just in case, he hurriedly filled his pockets with cash from the donation box and food from the cupboard.

“And don’t call the cops, or else!” he shouted.

“Why should I call the police?” answered the abbot calmly. “Those donations are to help poor people like you, and I have freely given you the food. You have stolen nothing. Go in peace.”

The next day, the abbot explained what had happened to his fellow monks and to his lay committee. They were all very proud of their abbot.

A few days’ later, the abbot read in the newspaper that the burglar had been caught robbing another house. This time he was sentenced to ten years in jail.

Just over ten years later, the same abbot was woken up early in the morning by the sound of someone in the shrine room. He got up to investigate and, yes you’ve guessed it, he saw the old burglar standing next to the donation box carrying a sharp knife.

“Remember me?” shouted the burglar.

“Yes,” groaned the abbot reaching into his pocket. “Here’s the key.”

Then the burglar smiled, put down the knife, and said gently, “Sir, put away the key. I couldn’t stop thinking about you all those long days in prison. You were the only person in my entire life who was kind to me, who actually cared about me. Yes, I have come back to steal again, but I realized that last time I took the wrong thing. This time I have come to take your secret of kindness and inner peace. That is what I really wanted in the first place. Please hand over the key to compassion. Make me your disciple.”

Soon after, the thief became a monk and became rich beyond his wildest dreams. Not with money, but with a wealth of kindness and inner peace. That is what we all really want. What a steal!

Ajahn Brahm in Don’t Worry, Be Grumpy