This is our 100th blog essay. Let us use this to recap what has been written thus far.
Recently, I heard this phrase on TV: “Life isn’t fair, but it need not be that way”. This phrase seems to capture the essence of Spirituality in Practice, the central theme of our blog.
We learn from Bhagawath Geetha and other scriptures about introspection on life. What is it that we perceive as the “experience”? In essence my experiences are the connection that “I” make with everything that happen external to me or other than the “self”. The nature of this connection is through three strands: Knowledge, Bias and Ignorance (also described as Tranquility, Turbulence and direction less Stagnation). While all three co-exist, one strand is dominant over the other two, which determines the nature of my “experience” on that event and in that context. This recognition between the event and my perception of it is the beginning of the process of “Self Control”, which permits me to make my choices consciously and after deliberation. This conscious choice – and the total objectivity practiced as the means – is the pathway through which one can engage in all the activities of life, where the intent is “Life isn’t fair, but it need not be that way”.
Through self-control, the focus on the “life” is not self-centered. Instead the focus becomes centered on all that is around us. In other words deep internal reflection leads one to identify with the needs of the universe at large and how best to meet that! This leads us to first question our belief that “life is not fair” and then also challenge the circumstances boldly and with commitment, when it need not be that way.
When you dive deep into the philosophy, we also realize that everything is driven by laws of nature. This includes our experiences as well. These Laws of Nature exist. We don’t know who created them or if there is a creator at all. If we cannot accept the notion that the Laws of Nature exist on their own accord, then we can invoke a creator who enabled them. This can be God, the Creator, the Supreme Being, you have the choice. Such acceptance of a creator as the source of the Laws of Nature is not arbitrary either. It shows a deep commitment to explore the laws of nature, that we need to persevere for while admitting that there will always be limits to such understanding. This relentless search for the laws of nature is also an unrelenting faith to identify and become in union with the Creator.
We exist as part of nature. Hence “nature” includes the good and the bad, the fair as well as the unfair. We see a tall tree overshadowing and stunting the growth of a small tree next to it. We see the wind that breaks the branches of a well grown tree. The tree with the broken limb learns to adapt and grow further along the branches left intact. The beautiful statue in the town square is eroded by wind and the rain and the sand storm. After centuries, the statue is also the witness for such enduring effects of time. These are simple and visible evidences of the nature at play. But, when it comes to us as individuals and our experiences we tend to deviate from this simple principle that “Everything is part of nature”. When we fail to see the laws of nature at work, fairness and un-fairness stand out. In this context, when we see fairness we accept that. When we see unfairness, we seek to find ways to correct that. But, it will be prudent to be certain that the initial assessment of fairness (and unfairness) is not a mistaken and incorrect reading of the laws of nature at play.
The small tree or the statue in the town center has no recourse. They merely endure the laws of nature. But, we as human beings can make the choice to some extent on the activities we choose to engage in. We can choose to engage the laws that are benevolent in their outcome rather than those that affect us adversely.
Everything exists as evidences of nature; everything functions and behaves, governed by the laws of nature. When we begin to see such laws and forces of nature at play in anything and everything we begin to understand the meaning of the great pronouncements or “Mahaa Vaakyaa” in the Upanishads. Thus we come to terms with the fair and un-fair aspects of nature in our daily life. Such learning leads us to accept that “life isn’t fair”, but true learning of the great pronouncements also impels us to make choices driven by the notion, “Life need not be unfair”. We shed a tear when we perceive the unfairness brought on by the laws of nature, but then wipe off those tears and engage into action – also driven by laws of nature – to do our part to correct the perceived unfairness, where ever we can and as best as we can. At this phase we also understand the true meaning of the verse:
Karmaani Yeva Adhikarasthe, Ma Paleshu Kadhachana. Ma KarmaPhala Hethturbu, Ma The’ Sangosthsva Karmani”
You have a right only to perform your prescribed duty; you are not entitled to the fruits of such action. Never consider that you are solely responsible for the results of your action, even if it is carried out in pursuit of your duties and never disengage yourself from doing your duty as well. — B.G. 2.47.
Above are analytical and philosophic approaches to life and ways to identify and challenge the perceptions of fairness and unfairness and how to go about in such situations, where we need to correct them. There are much simpler ways to bring that in practice. Scores of books give us guidelines for such code of conduct. These include Thirukkural, Athichudi, Vemanna poems, Knowledge of the Self, Bhaja Govindham, etc. which we have cited in many of our blog essays.
Life is what it is! The nature and the laws of nature are relentless equalizers. The water will always find the lowest point in its direction of flow. The fire will burn objects as long as there is enough oxygen. Solid objects that collide will experience an impact force. Lighter object will float on water. Chemicals will combine to create new chemicals based on their affinity. We all know the Laws of Physics and Chemistry are behind all such events and many more. Every aspect of human life – the physical, emotional and intellectual are all governed by the laws of nature. There is nothing fair or unfair about them. While we continue to seek and explore the laws of nature at play, we must also admit the limits of our knowledge. Our limits of their knowledge will always be constrained, since we are all the frogs in the well of nature!
If we can merely exist as objects of nature, there is nothing fair and unfair in our life. But, as human species we are parts of nature and yet with a special feature. This difference arises because we can think, reflect and analyze. It is this unique capacity, which distinguishes us from every other species on earth (and in the universe, as far as we know). This unique capability requires us to reflect on “Life isn’t fair, but it need not be that way” and act our part to help in that direction. That in essence is the Spirituality in Practice.