Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Section 3 - Values The Life Center

Earlier you saw that the truth about you is that your are happiness and you are goodness … that is what natural to you. Let this truth manifest in your actions and your responses.
Lord Krishna advises Arjuna, an important principle to follow with reference to action. He says, "Yoga Karmasu Kaushalam". Let there be VIVEKA – or discrimination or discretion in your life. Discrimination with reference to what?
With reference to action BE PROACTIVE - may you discriminate between :-
1. Right action and wrong action – and always act in keeping with the universal values
2. What is within your Circle of Control and what is not – and act in your Circle of Control
3. Good Habits and Bad Habits – and choose Good Habits
4. Right attitudes to action and wrong ones – and choose the right attitudes
BE PROACTIVE IN ACTIONS – Life is about making choices
Our daily life is about making choices every moment. Right from the moment you get up, you are making choices – from your toothpaste onwards to what you will wear to what branch of study you will take to what kind of job you will apply for.
Chariot Imagery (Ratha Kalpana)
Imagine a man driving a chariot drawn by four beautiful white horses along a path. The man is holding the reins of the horses. Suddenly the horses get distracted and neigh loudly as though frightened and begins to run swiftly. The man pulls the reins of the horses and makes them slow down. Now they come to a fork in the road. One leads to a beautiful city with all possible entertainment and fun called “Pleasure & Power”. The other leads to the great University of Takshashila.

The driver stops. He has to make choice – which path should he take. One path leads to all that appears good. The other path leads to the good (shreyas) . One path leads to the pleasant (preyas). The other path leads to the good. Which path should he take? Shreyas or Preyas?

The driver, the Charioteer is unsure. He looks at the owner who is sitting behind. He waits for instruction from the owner. The driver has to listen to the owner – do what the owner wants. What will the owner choose? The path leading to the pleasant or the path leading to the good?

That is the power of choice that is put before us in our life.

Look at the example above – we can liken it to our life. Our body is like a chariot. The horses are the senses that are seeking enjoyment. It is the senses that give us information of the world - sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch. And then the mind gets excited and can send the senses surging forward without any consideration for the consequences. I get the smell of pizza and I must have it NOW – without even considering if I can afford it, I order for it. On the other hand the mind can be like good reins for the horses of the senses and check the senses. Who pulls the reins. The driver or intellect has the reins of the mind in his hand and he can pull them and check the horses. The driver is the one who is in the seat and he can easily make out the pros and cons of moving on the path. Yet on his own he cannot make a decision. He has to get the orders from the owner, the individual, who makes the final choice of which path to take at any point in our journey of life. The path is the desires that impel us along or experiences of life that we gain. The fork in the path is the choice between the pleasant and the good.

So in life we must make GOOD CHOICES. GOOD CHOICES with references to our actions, our responses to situations, even our attitudes and thinking. Let us first what is a GOOD choice with reference to action.

Obviously a choice is BAD if it brings with it conflicts, pain, loss of self-confidence, disrespect of others, sense of insecurity and instability, weakness in our personality, incapacity to motivate and lead others and breaks in relationships.

Conversely a choice is good when it brings with it :-

  • Increase in self-confidence and self-respect
  • Increase in sense of security and stability
  • Strength of character – the ability to say ‘NO’ to what is wrong
  • POWER – the capacity to motivate and lead others to choices that will benefit them in the long run
  • Improved relationships
  • Respect of others
  • Happiness with oneself

    Yet when we make choices, we make them on the basis of what we like or dislike rather than how that choice will ACTUALLY BENEFIT me. In fact mostly our choices are based on our LIFE CENTERs.
    How will we know what is our life center? By asking yourself what do I spend most of my time thinking about? What are your choices based on? Do you think of your studies the most? Then studies are your life-center. Do you think of your friends most of the time – what you will do together with them, what they said to you, what you want to say to them etc … then it means friends are your life center

    They each have their good points and their bad points – but they are all incomplete in one way or another. And if you center your life on them – they will make a mess of your life – as we will see
    There’s nothing better than belonging to a great group of friends and nothing worse than feeling like an outcaste

    However if you base your own sense of identity on having friends, being accepted and being popular, you may end up compromising your values or changing them every weekend, so as to be acceptable to your friends! In Mahabharata we see the plight of Karna, who was friend-centered. Karna took Duryodhana to be his friend. Duryodhana did not value dharma. Duryodhana valued power over everything and for the sake of power he was willing to usurp the kingdom from his own first cousins, with whom he had grown up since childhood. Duryodhana was ready to fight a war with them. Even after Karna came to know that Pandavas were his brothers, Karna, was ready to fight with them and go against dharma, because of his priority for his friendship with Duryodhana.

    As teenagers we think our friendships are forever – many times they are – but as we move into college, graduate, get jobs we form new relationships – other things begin to occupy our time – our family, our job.

    So make as many friends as you can, but don’t build your life on them. It’s an unstable foundation. Friendships become meaningful when you are centered in values – your friends will respect you and even people you don’t care about will come to you
    Sometimes we see the world through the lens of possessions or ‘stuff’.

    Ours is a materialistic world – it teaches us that the most successful person is the person who has the maximum number of possessions. So we have to have the fastest car, the nicest clothes, the latest stereo, the best hairstyle, and many other things that are supposed to bring us happiness. Look at the foolishness of being after the best things – our concept of best keeps changing – as soon as it changes we have to again run after the new ‘best’ thing!!! Panting all the time. Again we get BORED with whatever we have. For a little time it amuses us and then we get bored. We seem to need a new thing all the time, because we get bored.

    Possessions also come in the form of title and accomplishments such as monitor, lead in the school-play, student leader, chief editor etc.

    Titles and accomplishments are great because they help us to bring out the best talent in us. They also help us to accomplish our goals. Nor is there anything wrong in enjoying our possessions. But we can’t center our life on things - because none of them have lasting value. If our sense of well-being comes from things that don’t have lasting value, our sense of well-being also cannot be lasting.

    Where should our confidence come from? From knowing that I am good basically and that goodness can never be wiped out. With confidence I develop my capacity to express my goodness through being more loving, more sharing, more giving, more capable of keeping my commitments and showing genuine respect for others.. If our confidence comes from the quantity of the things we own… then it will go….afterall , he who dies with the most toys …. Still dies.
    There was a successful businessman who had put all his money in sending his goods and all his personal belongings like car etc on a ship, because he was moving to a foreign country. Suddenly he got news that the ship in which he had sent all this, had sunk because of a storm. He had all the earnings of his life, all that he had carefully collected.

    If his confidence depended on his possessions he would lose all his confidence. However if his confidence was based onhis paradigm of himself being good, his knowledge of his own abilities and his capacity to bounce back he will not lose his sense of identity and have to as ‘Who am I’.

    Listen to what one teen told me
    I have been so ambitious and so school-centered that I haven’t enjoyed my school life. It has not only been unhealthy for me – but it has been selfish, because all I care about was me and my achievements.

    When in class 9, already I was working as hard as a college student. I wanted to be a brain surgeon, just because it was the hardest things I could think of. I would get up at six every morning all through school and not go to bed before 2 am in order to achieve.
    I felt teachers and peers expected it of me. They would always be surprised if I didn’t get perfect grades. My parents tried to loosen me up, but my own expectations were as great as that of my teachers and my peers.

    I realise now that I could have accomplished what I wanted without trying so hard and I could have had a good time doing it.

    Healthy Balance means that you can still have time to spend with your parents and friends, pursue your hobbies, exercise.
    Ramesh was the son of very busy business executive. Ramesh excelled in his studies and always won a prize for best student. He always wanted his father to come for the Prize Giving function when he would receive his many awards. But his father could never make it, because he would be out of station or have an important business meeting. Initially Ramesh was very unhappy, he would be miserable and feel like his father did not care for him. Slowly he began to understand that his father cared for him alright – only he was a busy person. So Ramesh would be happy when his mother came and when he returned home he would show his father his awards, when he knew his father had enough time.
    Sports-centered - With a career threatening injury, you have to build your confidence again from scratch. The same goes for hobbies and interests, such as dance, debate, drama, music or clubs.

    Sometimes we can even become enemy-centered, and build our lives around hating a group, a person, or an idea.
    The biggest example we have is Hitler – Hitler was obsessed by his hatred for Jews. He influenced a whole nation and became instrumental for the brutal murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Jews. His actions became responsible for World War II.
    What a warped center this one is. It brings destruction to oneself and to everyone else.

    We can certainly strive to become excellent in something like dance or debate. We can strive to develop outstanding relationships with our friends and parents. But we can’t base our entire existence on it. As you see, all these and more life-centers do not provide the stability that we need in our lives.
    By now you may be thinking is there any center that actually works. Yes there is. It is the laws that given human interaction – which is universal values such as love, peace, commitment, honesty, respect, responsibility, service, forgiveness, hard-work, patience, courage and dozens more. We are all familiar with the law of gravity. Throw a ball in the air and it HAS to come down. It is a natural law or principle. Just as there are principles or laws that govern the physical world, there are laws that rule the human world.

    Being principles or laws, they apply equally to all – they are not Hindu or Muslim or Chinese or American. They apply to rich, poor, famous, infamous, male, female. They cant be bought or sold either.
    Universal Values like kindness, honesty, commitment, responsibility, forgiveness, respect is what you want from others towards you. You certainly want others to be kind to you. You want others to be honest with you and to keep their commitments. You want them to b reponsible. You want them to respect you and forgive you for your mistakes. So they become the basis for your behaviour with others.

    Look at this drawing. These are the things that matter to you in your life. They form the basis of what you like and dislike. They could easily be the center of your life meaning you could make decisions based on them.

    For example your close friend gets angry with the teacher and breaks a desk at school in your presence. The teacher asks who broke the desk. You keep quiet and speak to him privately asking him not to do this. Next time, he does the same thing again in your presence. Again teacher asks who did this? You again refuse to say anything.

    Are you friend-centered or value centered? If you are value-centered what would your decision be and why?

    When your life is centered around values, all your decisions pertaining to school, work, your possession, sports and hobbies, friends, enemies, heroes, yourself, parents are made on the basis of values.
    Values NEVER fail.

It takes faith to live on values, especially when you see others, even those who are close to you, get ahead in life by lying, cheating, indulging, manipulating and serving only themselves. It is true that people do seem to get ahead by breaking values – but it is only a temporary gain.
Take the value of honesty. If you are a big liar, you may be able to get by for a while, even for a few years. But you cannot find a liar who has achieved success over a long period of time. The truth is impossible to break the law. We will only break ourselves. If you doubt it – take of your shirt and rub your back against the bark of an old neem tree. You don’t rub the tree – nothing happens to the tree – but the tree rubs you and you will not be able to wear your shirt for 10 days!

Values never fail you. They will never talk behind your back. They don’t get up and move away. They don’t suffer from career-ending injuries. They don’t play favourities based on friendship, skin color, gender, wealth or looks.
Good choices allow you to do the right thing at the right time. One of the most important ingredients of a good choice is that it has its based in the universal values. So when you have a decision to make, always make sure that you make them in keeping with the universal values.
We do not follow values because our parents tell us to, or because our teachers tell us, or because society tells us – we follow values automatically without being told to do so when we understand
1. what we gain by following them
2. what we lose or the harm done to us by not following them

Om Tat Sat

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