balance

Check-checkmate

Check-checkmate

Udharet asmana atmanam na atmanam avasadayet I

Atma eva hi atmanah bandhuh atma eva ripu atmanah II sloka 5”

 

उद्धरेत  आस्माना आत्मानं न आत्मानं अवसादयेत्  ।

आत्मा एव हि आत्मनः बन्धुः आत्मा एव रिपुः  आत्मनः ।। श्लोक ५

Translation:

“Let a man raise himself by his own self; let him not debase himself. For he is himself his friend and foe.”

 

One is oneself responsible for one’s distinction or debasement. The contributions that others make in these respects are secondary. It is but usual that one complains that one’s enemy has done havoc to one. But no one can hurt without oneself contributing to it. It is possible for a sadhaka (aspirant) to avail himself of a wrong done to him by his enemy for self – purification. Because of misunderstanding and maladjustment man paves the way for self-debasement. And by doing so, he becomes his own enemy. On the other hand, by right understanding and right conduct he elevates himself and thereby becomes his own friend.  One is one’s own arch friend or arch foe. The person who understands this fact; learns an invaluable lesson for life. 

No one courts enmity; friendship alone is sought by all. But one needs to learn to be victorious over self, first.

 

This particular shloka from Bhagwad Geeta always conjures the image of a chess board in my mind. I never really connected to or understood this shloka in its real essence, though is used be repeated very often by my dad during our growing up years. It was one of his favourite shloka. Similarly, chess also was one game I preferred to stay away from, a game my dad excelled at and challenged all his progeny to learn and master.

In retrospect today I can make the connection between the Shloka and the crafty game; both are very individual and pass on the same message to the person playing the game of chess or to the person living the shloka. A game of chess is a very individually uplifting game and tells the player every time that he/she is the sole reason for upliftment or down fall.

The whole Game of chess vests and depends on the King, protecting the king and defeating the opponent King. The king himself has very restricted mobility, yet is the most cherished piece on the board,  the sole piece on which the life and death of the game depends, it is either check or check mate depending on the King. The human nature is also much the same; heart is the king; cocooned and nestled inside the deepest recess of the human anatomy. Surrounded and protected by a plethora of other organs, playing the visibly useful role. The heart only responds if the owner is willing to listen! Else it rhythmically beats and the person is alive only as long as the heart continues to beat, any other organ collapses; life continues. The heart stops, it is game over.

The second most powerful piece on the board is the Queen; the maker or the breaker of the game, she moves with ease deftness and dexterity all over the board. She commands and marshals the other forces and aligns them in a way that she protects the King and also leads the king towards victory, step by step, listening to the king and acting in accordance to the wishes of the king. Same is the mind, the upliftment of the person or the curse which brings the downfall of the person. Mind works the way the owner controls it, controlled by heart it never goes wrong or strays but independent and dominated by its own will and by the other acting forces, external and internal, the mind plays great havoc and in no time reduces the human being to cinders. The heart is a mute spectator watching life slip away, step by step, leading up to death and decay.

Only if the Queen is balanced and powerful can the king be protected and work well with the other forces in the kingdom; march ahead and defeat the opponent. Similarly, if the mind is in the right place, well balanced the person leads a successful life in control of all the other senses. The emotions, reactions, aspirations and ambitions are balanced and lead the individual towards a victorious content filled life winning against the enemies within. And, this person successfully defeats the opponents or contenders in the outside world also.

The rest of the pieces and powers on the chess board help the queen dually, give power to the queen and also save the king from the opponent forces. The queen in turn takes their help and smoothly marshals her forces and defeats the opponent bringing victory and cheer to the king. Likewise, if one has overcome ones vices and effectively reign in the cantering mind, then the silenced mind listens to the heart. Such a person ultimately walks the path of contentment and fulfilment, unconcerned by the adversaries and competition of the world. The mind thinks with clarity and is in competition with no one on the outside. It is at peace within and without.

Thus, the person is responsible for one’s own upliftment and one’s own downfall. Till we do not overcome our own vices and convert those to virtues the chances of winning over any outside agent become negligible. The competition is always from within and the victory begins first with the victory over self and then transcends to victory over others.

Balanced Life

“There is an ancient Chinese saying, which says, “Every stick has two ends.” At first it seemed to be too simple, a mere statement of a visible fact which all can see. Who can, after all, deny that a stick has two ends? I wondered why an ancient Chinese philosopher had felt it necessary to make this statement at all. It appeared too superficial a truth to have merited any philosopher”s attention. Many years later, after several years of meditation, I realize what a profundity of meaning is hidden within those five words of that long forgotten philosopher.

First I learnt that our existence has two aspects, two areas, to it. They are the material and the spiritual realms of existence. There are not merely two sides to existence. The two sides have to be “balanced” if one is to lead a full and productive existence. This is the second lesson I learnt. All of us live, but few lives have real content, real worth in them. The bulk of humanity leads an animal existence motivated by lusts, inspired by fear and driven by lower urges and appetites unworthy of being called even remotely human. …Principles of Sahaj Marg, P.Rajagopalchari”

All the saints of yore and now have the thread of ‘Leading a Balanced Life’ culminating in a life full of love and self-realization as the common denominator. Looking at the present scenario though, balanced life seems to have lost its meaning totally; the scales are tipped heavily on one side. Before addressing the problems let us try and understand what the seers meant by leading a balanced life, and where exactly did we miss the bus.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has said, like a bird needs both its wings to soar high up in the sky, so does the human life need both its wings, the material and spiritual to lead a successful life. If any one wing is clipped or unused the flight of the bird is hampered; likewise mankind must maintain a balance between the spiritual quest and the material search in life. Mankind can reach the zenith of existence and success in all fields only by leading a balanced life.

Our country was the epitome of balanced existence up until we started aping the west. The way the role of human being was divided was a very balanced one leading the person from one stage of life to the other nurturing both the wings equally. During the days of Ramayana and Mahabharata people were very advanced scientifically, performing miraculous surgeries sans the present technology. Everyone was rich and content, adept in their skill or trade and very connected to the God within, by way of prayer and steadfast faith. From the time of birth unto death both the aspects of life were weighed equally important, more so the spiritual aspect than the material one. The Gurukul shaped the students to learn the skills of life alongside their spiritual pursuits. They lived with the Guru, ran errands for him, learnt skills and mastered scriptures. The education was all encompassing and complete.  When the students returned to the world they were very cognizant of their role and future course of life. Never did the scales tip to any side; both the roles were accomplished with equal sincerity and earnestness. Most of the vices of ambition, greed, hatred, and jealousy existed then also but the spiritual mind was so strong that the conscience never swayed towards the wrong side for very long.  A peaceful co-existence was more the norm at the cost of a little sacrifice and unbounded love in return.

The more we began to ape the west the lesser was our attention towards the spiritual side. In no time the soul was put to sleep and one wing was clipped off altogether. For some time we did postpone the use of this wing to a later date, old age or after we fulfill our responsibilities of youth and family life but very soon that casino pa natet wing was forgotten and replaced by an inanimate wing for more material gains. The flight of the bird was artificially maintained for awhile but very soon the flaws came to light and life’s journey became a very uphill task. This is how it is today, life’s journey for most of us seems to have become a Himalayan climb and we are grappling with the reason. We seem to be doing everything right, the way our forefathers did and yet we are unhappy and feel stagnated. The west has lost its glory and sheen and India unfortunately has reduced itself to a developing nation, struggling with illiteracy, unemployment and rampant corruption today! Imbalances are so many that counterbalancing them seems impossible and very daunting.

The west is looking at us now for inspiration and a way of life, learning from our scriptures and trying to lead a balanced life. One big reason why almost all the Gurus and preachers are so successful, well accepted and have amassed a huge following abroad, even though they are Indians by birth. What we lost has become their gain yet again, first the material wealth and now the spiritual elixir. The west has always looked towards East for every query, be it material or spiritual. We squandered away our spiritual wealth and looked towards them for all the wrong reasons and look at our plight today.

All we need to do is like Swami Vivekananda said, ‘Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is achieved.’ Go back to our scriptures and revive the spiritual wing, begin to nurture it and start leading a balanced life. It is a verity that a successful wealthy person comes with an expiry date, material wealth at the most maybe lasts 4-5 generations if it is not nurtured with spiritual roots. On the other hand spiritual wealth well nurtured  becomes eternal and like a Banyan tree gives shade for generations to come and spreads its roots below and branches above! It brings material gains with the spiritual contentment and life reaches its zenith in one life time of balanced existence.

So, instead of teaching our children to be competitive and comparative it may be a better idea to teach them introspection and self – discovery. The youth of today has a better chance of changing this nation and creating a better world for their progeny. We adults can take the small right step of steering this youth in the direction of a balanced life, soaring high using both the wings.