Tag Archives: Motivation

Raya Asked A Question…A Story For The Young And Old

Part 1

One day Emperor Krishna Deva Raya (of Vijayanagar empire, 1509-29), aggrieved by a recent loss of a dear relative, fell into a spell of serious introspection: ‘What is the most important lesson in life to be learned?’

He knew there would be many answers to his question. So he decided to hold a sadas – like today’s conferences, it’s a forum, practiced even today, for enriching discussion and debate, not necessarily competitive – of learned pundits from near and far.

On the appointed day, the Royal Court quickly filled up.

Tenali Raman was also present…

Hey, wait a minute, a mere court jester, he’s no way a pundit qualified to be part of this assembly.

 …bringing along a guest of his, a guru, not widely known outside his circle.

Sadas commenced with a brief introduction from Raya, followed by the Raja Guru (chief guru of the Royal Court) explaining the protocols and rules. The floor was thrown open to the participants.

The learned pundits from the assembly presented a variety of thoughts and theories drawing heavily from the veda’s, upanishad’s, purana’s and epic’s. Probing questions were raised and answered. Theories dissected and interpretations offered. A parade of knowledge and a veritable feast for the intellect.

A couple of hours passed thus and finally it seemed all who came to speak had been heard and the sadas ready for closure.

That’s when the Raja Guru requested Tenali’s guest to also contribute to the proceedings. Tenali too entreated him to share his views on the subject. 

The guru obliged.

Part 2

At the podium, he requested for and got a bunch of samit’s (short sticks of wood usually from peepal tree offered to agni, the fire-god in homam’s and three chords of adequate length.

The audience was intrigued.

A volunteer from the audience was asked to come up. He had to take a bunch of samit’s and tie them tightly up into a bundle at two places near the center, a few inches apart, using the two chords. The free ends of the chords were nipped close to the knots, offering no grip at all and the knots themselves not easy to undo.  Now the bundle was ready.

He invited anyone from the audience to step up. He had to pull a couple of samit’s free from the bundle without tampering the two chords in any manner or breaking any samit. It meant the samit’s had to come out, if at all, through the edges of the bundle.

When one of them tried with all his might, the samit would not slide out. Reasons: the bundle tied tight held the samit in its place, no good grip available on the samit to pull it out and the small protrusions on the samit snagged on one chord or the other preventing its sliding out.

More tried…without success.

Clearly now it was left to the guru to come up and show…

Part 3

He did. He took the third chord and right at the center between the other two chords he wound it around the bundle more than once, making it a wee bit tighter than others. A knot was not even needed. The chord crunched the samit’s together a little more than before, of course without breaking. This had the effect of loosening a little bit the other two chords riding either side on the bundle…allowing them to slipped out free over the edges. With them out of the way the third chord was simply unwound to free up the entire bunch!!

Jaws dropped in the audience.

“It is actually very simple like this bundle of samit’s. For lasting peace of mind and meaningful happiness, there must be, for everyone, a philosophy of life, ideally structured around a single higher purpose or objective worth striving for – could be based on dhaana, (charity), ahimsa (non-violence towards all sentient), bhakti (devotion), community service or anything else one (or the group) chooses, usually dictated by one’s dharma (simply, the ‘done’ thing for one’s group), guru followed, family tradition, law of the land or learned wisdom. Regard this chord tightly wound at the center as representing the same. All activities and sub-goals in one’s life must be touched by, subordinated to, strongly held together by this single objective like the chord does to the samit’s.  Faced with it, all other bonds in life slip off like it happened to the chords on the sides. The entire energy of life is focused on just that one purpose, none wasted. No duvidha (confusion of choice or priorities). That’s all there to it.”

“This, I submit, is the most important lesson in life to be learnt.”

He returned to his seat.

It took a little while for the awe-struck audience to collect their wits and give him the ovation due to him.

They were quite impressed at his cleverness in using very dramatically a mere bundle of samit’s as a model for putting forth, on a complex question, his views which seemed to make good sense at first glance. Also they were at once both unhappy and happy; unhappy because a specific philosophy, school of thought or a higher objective not being prescribed as the solution – it meant they had to exercise their grey cells, find and fashion it all by themselves; and, paradoxically, happy because it was entirely left to an individual’s choice or a collective volition. They agreed the profundity of what was said needed to be followed up with much more serious contemplation.

The sadas was declared closed.

With a lot on his plate to sift, select and digest, Raya sought a follow-up meeting with the guru.

End

Source: Inspired by a post in some aanmeega forum (cannot recall)

Images from Pinterest, amazon.in

Some (Secular) Thoughts On What Is Dharma

The concepts herein are based on an illuminating foreword written by Late Shri K. M. Munshi to a booklet on Yaksha Prasna, an episode in Mahabharata with deep meanings, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

While treatises are written on the subject, very simply, Dharma is the defining behaviour of a species, a class, a group…by which it sets itself apart from others.

Like a tiger’s is to hunt a prey, a guru is to teach, guide…why, a thief’s is to steal!

It’s a consistent framework that govern a member’s thoughts, actions, beliefs, methods, measures and principles constituting its integrity.

So far so good. Now comes the interesting and complex part:

Dharma by no means is unequivocal. It is also not monolithic or static. There are desha dharma (specific to the place one lives), yuga dharma and kaala dharma (applicable to the times one lives in)… There are role and pedigree based ones too, like raja dharma (for kings) and kula dharma (for lineage)! While these are termed as visesha dharma (special and specific), at the lowest level is saamanya dharma (the ordinary, common, non-specific principles like ‘don’t thieve’, ‘don’t tell lies’…).

It is not difficult to visualize principles of dharma taking contrary positions in a given situation – dharma-sankat’s. A man is never one thing. A raja (a king, a leader) is also a manusha (a man, a human being), a pati (a husband) to his wife and many more with different dharma’s prescribed for each (Dasaratha’s example)! This is not all. Even in the same role, often saamanya dharma could conflict with viseha dharma (rishi’s example). And within in the same class too, saamanya or visesha!

And our lives are full of them and living is negotiating through these conflicts, big and small. 

Dilemmas such as this are normally resolved by a Guru by his exemplary decisions/actions in a given context – the one strong function of gurukul education, showing the inadequacy of learning merely from books and not watching its roll-out in real. Also the two great epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata – and the multitude of Purana’s bring up a number of scenarios illustrating the application of dharmic principles. Their very purpose, it’s said. Also from the lives of saints and sages of yore and modern-day enlightened souls.

Time for some examples:

One role (raja) versus another (father): This is from sage Valmiki’s Ramayana, Balakanda, Sarga 19. Here sage Viswamitra is pleading with Dasaratha to send young Rama with him to fight the two demons Maricha and Subahu and protect sage’s penances to fruition. The king, extremely fond of Rama, hesitates. Thereupon the sage in his persuasion tells him not to be blinded by paternal affection, it is his raja dharma to protect his subjects and also not to go back on promises made (earlier the king generously promises to give anything he wanted when welcoming the sage to his court).

Saamanya versus visesha: This is in the well-known parable about the rishi (one who has renounced worldly matters) at his ashram (abode) performing meditation in the forest. A deer comes in running to where the rishi is and quickly gets away taking one of the forest routes available to it. Very soon, a posse of hunters also arrive at the spot and ask the rishi if he saw a deer coming that way and which way did it go. The rishi deliberately points wrong way to them. Here the principle of ahimsa (no cruelty to other living beings) overrides the saamanya dharma’s injunction: ‘don’t tell lies’.

In leadership roles where actions have a much broader impact, the principle of ‘Bahu jana sukhaaya, bahujana hithaaya’ (greater good for great many) is often used in conflict resolution. Not to be confused with tyranny of numbers (majority). For instance, consider capital punishment. Killing someone goes against the state’s visesha dharma of having to prevent cruelty to its subjects, the accused in this instance. On the other hand it is in line with the state’s visesha dharma to protect from or prevent crimes against its subjects, possible victims in future at the hands of this accused if let go or others emboldened by him. How best this could be done provides the answer to the legitimacy of state killing anyone. Or take the project of damming a river to provide water all-round the year versus large tracts of village lands going under water in the up-stream catchment area. Requires a close look at the costs and benefits.

Udyoga dharma (dharma of one’s profession) is a modern broad-based need since profession one takes up is no longer related to one’s kula (ancestral family inherited industries like farmer, potter, soldier, blacksmith…) and also because there are some zillion new professions that have come into being in modern societies. Broadly speaking, udyoga dharma could be that:

‘a) A man must perform a honest day’s work.

‘b) He must sincerely and diligently serve the best interests of his customers (internal including the employer and external including the environment).

‘c) An interesting corollary of b is he must constantly hone his skills so he continues to deliver the best.

Another powerful implication of the above is that the service level (b and c) are not adversely impacted by any grievances an employee may hold, genuine or otherwise, in his job! He is called up on to resolve the same independently to the best of his ability.

The straight and simple inculcation and subsequent reinforcement to keep up one’s dharma is the best self-actualizing motivator on a very sound and stable dharmic base scoring over any scheme conceived so far for this purpose.

In fact, it generally applies likewise to performance under all dharmic frameworks.

End

Sources: Life Conflicts and  Valmiki Ramayan Sarga 19. Image from santanmission.com

They Also Serve Who…

The daughter in her forties and her 70-year old mother worked in the house as domestic help – the daughter cooked while the mother washed and swept the front-yard. At work, they rarely talked to each other. From their demeanor, one would never suspect they were mother and daughter living under one roof.

The daughter had grown up in her uncle’s house in Chennai while the mother had brought up her sister in the village.

It’s a sad story how her father abandoned her mother with two children while they were going some place by bus. Yes, he just disappeared at a bus stop leaving the illiterate woman in the middle of nowhere without a penny in her purse. Somehow she struggled to reach a relative’s house and find her way back with the children in tow.  The man was rumored to have moved in with another woman in the same neighborhood. With no further contact all his life, the mother went for his last rites on his demise!

As for her, she found her man cheating on her and pestering her for favors at other times. Disgusted she walked out of her marriage with her child, never to look back again.

In certain sections of the society it is not uncommon to find these stories oft-repeated where the man goes off with impunity to live with another woman. No questions asked. And the woman struggles with her life working as a domestic help or as a small-time vendor selling flowers, vegetables, etc.

For some years now the mother is living with her daughter in Chennai, visiting off and on her other daughter happily married and living in Pondicherry – the one silver-lining in the story.  

How are the two getting on? The daughter like a stern-faced head-mistress and the mother like a beyond-caring errant child. According to the mother, they have their spats, mostly scripted and acted out by the daughter. She could not put her finger on what upset the daughter. She just shrugged her shoulders: ’What to do? She’s like that… I let it pass.’

After that long prelude, now to the plot, thin but deep:

One day the daughter looked a little distracted. Reason: The mother had decided to go to Pondicherry for a month to be with her other daughter.

While talking about it, she said: ‘I can’t stay without Thaayi (her mother).’ Came as a surprise. But she repeated herself twice.

When this was carried later to Thaayi while she was sweeping the dead neem leaves off the yard, her response:

‘Don’t kid with me.’

‘No. I’m not.’

She went back to her job. After a few minutes, she came back:

‘She said that? Did she say it in jest or…’

‘No, she was right earnest saying she can’t live without you in the house.’

She too appeared surprised. Surely gladdened her heart though she didn’t exactly go into a dance. May be it’ll get at least her thru the next few spats to come?

Besides the obvious moral of the story: ‘When you care about someone, say it loud and often to the person.’…there’s more to the story (with apologies to Milton John), I thought:

‘They also serve…

who carry a good word spoken,

a warm feeling expressed…

to its rightful addressee,

who wasn’t around then.’

A great opportunity, often overlooked, to bring people closer happily at no cost and with little effort!

End

Source: Mother and Daughter – hand-painted by ANJU AGRAWAL listed at fizdi.com/

Yours Is The Earth And Everything That’s In It If…

Rudyard Kipling on How To Be A Man

If …

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

End

Source: fs.blog/2012/12/how-to-be-a-man-rudyard-kipling/ and Photo by Roger-Viollet