Friday, September 14, 2012

Success and Failure of Life

What is success and what is failure? We understand that to be successful is to arrive, to get somewhere; and so we worship success. When a poor boy grows up to become a multi-millionaire, or an average student becomes the prime minister one day, he’s feted for being successful.
Is success an absolute or is it an idea we pursue? Because the moment one arrives, there’s always a point further ahead at which one has yet to arrive. In the pursuit of success we are faced with challenges and conflicts. Even when you have ‘arrived’, there’s no rest for you because now you want to go still ahead; you want more. The pursuit of success is the desire for ‘more’ and a more is not an intelligent mind; on the contrary, it’s a mediocre, stupid mind, because its demand for ‘more’ implies a constant struggle in terms of the pattern which society has set for it.
What’s contentment, and what’s discontent? Discontent is hankering for ‘more’ and contentment is the cessation of that struggle; but you cannot come to a state of contentment without understanding the whole process of the ‘more’ and why the mind demands it.
If you fail an examination, for example, you would perhaps take it again. But by themselves, examinations and your performance in them don’t really reveal your true worth. Passing an examination is largely a feat of memory or it may be a matter of chance; but you strive to pass your examinations and if you don’t succeed, you keep at it. With most of us it’s the same process in everyday life. We’re struggling to achieve something, and we’ve never paused to enquire if the way we are dealing with it is the right way. It’s only when we have understood the significance or insignificance of wanting ‘more’ that we cease to think in terms of failure and success.
We’re all so afraid to fail, to make mistakes not only in examinations but also in life. To make a mistake is considered terrible because we’ll be criticized for it. If we’re afraid of making mistakes, we’ll never learn. The ideal of success is held up for us to follow; and success is always in terms of respectability. Even the saint in his so-called spiritual achievements must become respectable, otherwise he has no recognition, no following.
So we’re always thinking in terms of success, in terms of ‘more’ and the ‘more’ is a relative ideal dependent on what prevailing social norms consider to be respectable. If you do not live up ot that societal ideal, you are likely to be called a failure. But if you love to do something with all your being, you are then not concerned with success and failure. However, very few have the evolved perspective that allows them space to think this way. The whole concern of an intelligent person is to see things as they are intelligent person is to see things as they are and understand the problem –which is not necessarily about bracketing action in terms of being oriented towards success or failure. It’s only when we don’t really love what we’re doing, that we think in those terms. Didn’t a wise person say; “Success is a relative term; there’s nothing absolute about it?”
What we think of as success today might be thought of as failure in another time and situation and vice versa. It would be in our best interest to view both what we call success and failure as relative states, and so treat both success and failure with equanimity.

Increase your Awareness

Krishna says in the Gita that it is because of ajnana or ignorance that people experiences are kinds of agitation and so they are deluded. The cause of sorrow is moha or delusion. One can achieve one’s objective of dispelling sorrow only when one discards and destroys one’s delusion. The Gita’s message is that we should get rid of ignorance.
A German psychiatrist said, “The pathology that humanity seems to be suffering from is robot pathology.” We have become robots. We have become unaware and that leads to becoming mechanical and so we have become unhappy. The extent to which ignorance is discarded determines the quality of improvement in one’s life. The greater our freedom from ignorance, the greater is our happiness.
I was recently reading an interesting cartoon. The Bishop was very happy with a Father for his excellent missionary work. He called the Father and said, “I am very happy with your missionary work, and as a token of my love I am going to give you a very beautiful horse, which I have loved. I am going to give you this Arabian horse so that it may help you in carrying out your missionary work.”
The Father was very happy. The Bishop said “There is only one condition that you should beware of…. The horse only knows two words – “Hallelujah, and ‘O God!’ If you mount the horse and goad it to run, it will not; but if you utter ‘O God’ immediately, it will start galloping. Being teamed by a Bishop, it has become very religious. And if you want to stop the horse, pulling the reins will not do; you have to say. ‘Hallelujah’ and then instantaneously, it will stop.”
The father sat on the beautiful Arabian horse and said. “O God!” The horse started galloping at great speed. And as he said “O God” again and again, it ran faster and faster. While the Father was enjoying the ride, suddenly he realized that the horse was heading towards the brink of a cliff. Now he wanted to stop the horse and said “stop, stop!” “Hallelujah” and immediately, the horse stopped, right at the edge. One moment later they would have plunged to their deaths.
And then he looked at the valley and said “O God! You saved me”. No sooner had he uttered this, the horse started galloping…. So uttering O God was a mechanical act and not one that was thought out!.
One can find people of any religious sect say their prayers mechanically. Their prayers and expressions, “O God, O Ram or O Krishna”…. Are mechanical. And the genesis of the mechanical tendency is unawareness. The more you are unaware, the greater is your mechanical tendency, the greater is the robotic life that you lead and consequently, true religious quality gets totally eroded.
Therefore, it is very essential, in spiritual life and in religious life, to deepen the quality of awareness, be it a prayer or a worship that you are doing. To deepen your awareness, which is born out of true perception and understanding, is one of the important qualities of a spiritual or a religious life. In Tantra Shastra it is said, “Chaitanya Atma,” our Atma, the self should be one of Chaitanya, of awareness. And therefore, to deepen one’s awareness is one of the principal teachings of all the great Masters and especially of the Gita.

Love depends upon color

The purpose of meditation is to look inward, to reach a state of inner spiritual bliss. We are conscious of our soul’s connectedness with God and all life. We are strengthened by the fearlessness that comes with identifying with soul. We live in the knowledge that we are immortal. By looking inward, we go to the source of wisdom from which all outer knowledge is derived. Through meditation we can go beyond the door of death to meet the bliss and beauty that await us beyond. We no longer live in fear of death.
Saints who have seen past this world say that death is not something to fear, but something to embrace. Kabir said, “The death of which other people are afraid is a source of happiness for me. It is only with death that I attain everlasting bliss.” St. Teresa of Avila has said of death. “I do not die. I enter into life.”
For enlightened beings, life as we know it on earth is sleep. Death and entry into the kingdom of God is walking up. St Paul said, “Oh death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Behind many fears is the fear of loss, pain and death. Having experienced our immortality, our fears begin to dissolve. The soul, in its state of oneness with the Lord, fears nothing. It only fears ignorance of that oneness. In reality, sin is merely ignorance of truth. Sin means being unaware of God and the laws of truth and love that govern all the universes. It is a simple formula. Virtue is what brings us closer to God, sin or evil takes us away from God.
If we walk on the path of righteousness, observing the laws of non-violence, truthfulness, chastity, humility and selfless service and spending time in our spiritual practices of meditation, then we have nothing to fear in this world or in the beyond.
When we see the same Light that is within our soul in all other souls, we experience connectedness with all forms of life. With such a bond of unity, we realize that all beings are members of our family and life becomes one joyous reunion with everyone we meet.
The joy of family gatherings extends to the whole of humanity. Love permeates all our dealings because we are among our universal family and friends. By journeying within, we can reach this state and consider all creation our family and all places our home.
Unending bliss is ours when we look inward. Sufi saint Shamas -i- Tabreze offers a glimpse into this state of bliss: “Please do not ask me about my inner state of being. My senses, intellect and soul are intoxicated, and they have achieved a permanent bliss of intoxication. The roots of these trees are drinking the secret wine of love. Have patience, because one day you too will wake up into this state of intoxication. In my mind there is a festival of intoxication. Feel the effect of the wine of Divine Love, so that even the walls and door are intoxicated.”
When we are in love with an earthly beloved, the whole world takes on the color of love. We see things as rosy and blissful. Similarly, when in a state of bliss from within, it colors the whole world in bliss. We then see ecstasy wherever we look.

Cleaverness and Wisdom

Zomo the rabbit, though not big or strong, was known to be very clever. Zomo decided it was time he was known for wisdom too, so he approached Sky God.
Sky God told him he would have to earn it by bringing him the scales of the Big Fish Of The Sea; the milk of the Fearsome Wild Bull Cow, and the tooth of the Mighty Leopard.
Zomo confidently agreed. He begin playing his drum so loud at the shore, that the drumbeats went down to the bottom of the sea. Big Fish, dancing to the irresistible rhythm, flipped right out of the water. Zomo drummed faster and faster; Big Fish danced faster and faster so fast that its jingling scales fell right off. Embarrassed, it jumped back into the sea. Zomo grabbed the scales and ran.
Back in the forest, Zomo climbed a palm tree till Wild Bull-Cow showed that it wasn’t really big and strong, daring it to knock down the little palm tree. Enraged, it charged and its horns stuck in it, so Zomo slid down, turned his drum upside down filling it with milk before it got free.
Zomo then ran to the top of the hill where Mighty Leopard lied, sprinkled some fish scales and a few drops of milk on the path, and slipped, rolling down the hill, hitting a rock. Its tooth immediately popped out. Zomo caught it and hopped a way to Sky God.
Sky God smiled, ‘You are clever enough.” He said. “But not wise…. Three things in this world are worth having: Courage, good sense and deep understanding of things and creatures,” said Sky God. “Little rabbit, you have lots of courage, a bit of sense, but absolutely no understanding. So next time you see Fish, Cow or Leopard …. Better run fast!”
Like Zomo, we imagine that cleverness can easily bring us to wisdom, or that they are sister states of being. Actually they are more like distance relatives.

Cleverness is satisfied with short-term gains; wisdom acts from a wider perspective. Wisdom is founded on confidence rather than arrogance,; learning from experience, yet forever open to the power of new possibilities.
Most of us are good at being clever, and are encouraged to be so, appreciated for being so. Being clever has made us more powerful. We can build organizations, cities, countries. We can also destroy them.
How does it make sense to say, “He is a wise man but he does foolish things”
Wisdom is not just thinking intelligently, but living intelligently. More than just being effective in daily life, it means we choose our values and basic priorities well and we live by them. It means we can fail, but learn from mistakes. It means we take responsibility for the intended as well as unintended consequences of our actions.
When cleverness does serve wisdom, knowledge, information and experience can be distilled in a meaningful way.  Often cleverness, recognized in showy brilliance, involves resourceful accepting reality, putting things in perspective ten contexts – dependent; wisdom is timeless, free of context. Cleverness mostly is a means to wisdom, recognizing the interrelatedness of everything, is always for the good of all.

You have to change your attitude

Taking to spiritual development is to day seen as a way to stress busting and thus bettering the quality of our lives. This seems to be more relevant in urban living where lifestyle, desires and aspirations are working at cross purposes. People are getting increasingly edgy and short-tempered and social grace is taking beating.
Treading the spiritual path, the aspirant needs to ensure that he has the correct reference point of beneficiary.
There was a sorcerer in a town in Tibet who would torment people with his black magic. Stories spread of how he could bring down hall and destroy villages with his powers. He would rob and kill people at will. He gained great respect out of sheer fear. After a few years, a great personal tragedy shook him and he decided he would practice this sorcery no more.
In the high mountains lived a lama of repute. He had heard of the deeds of the black magician and was overwhelmed with the suffering the people had to undergo because of him. The sorcerer approached the lama and said to him. “I need to redeem myself. Please help me.” The lama suggested: “Very well, now that you wish to change, you need to change your attitude first! Just as you did all the evil things to people causing them great suffering, thereby deriving great pleasure from it, you are to exactly reverse the process!”
“What do you say, master” I don’t understand,” the penitent asked. The lama continued: “Well, just as you did harm to others and derived pleasure now do good to people and derive happiness. It’s so simple. “The sorcerer got the message and went on to become one of the greatest masters of our time.
We always look at benefit with this view point: “How will I derive benefit out of my practices and actions?” The shift of attitude should be in cultivating a mind that thinks of how others can derive benefit from my practices and actions. The moment shift of the reference point of the true recipient of the beneficiary is made the pathway is yours for gainful merit. This has to be done willingly and in happiness, otherwise we will accrue negative karma.
The teacher becomes the compassionate one who gives direction. The rest is up to us, to translate to action willingly, understanding why it is necessary to do so. The shift in attitude, in the point of reference of the true beneficiary of action undertaken, is necessary for all those in public life, too, like administrator and politicians. Then the results would be of great common benefit.
Summarising everything into a single verse, the greatest teacher of Mahayana and Indian scholar, Shantideva said” “All the joy the world contains Has come the misery the world contains has come through wanting pleasure for oneself. Tathagatha realization to you!”
Tathagatha refers to one who has walked the path to full awakening and so reached the end of suffering and is released from life death cycle. The implication is that the path is open to all who would follow it. In later Mahayana, Buddhism, Tathagatha came to mean the essential Buddha nature found in every sentient being.