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Shrimad Bhagavad Gita on Right way of living - (Part-3: Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)

Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon Published on 13 March, 2014
Shrimad Bhagavad Gita on Right way of living - (Part-3: Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)
 12 Truthful actions 

The Sanskrit word’ satyam’ in Sanskrit meaning Truth came from the word ‘Sath’ meaning true being. It is the very nature of our selves. Truth means being factual, being objective or that which corresponds to reality. Other words used to mean truth is honesty, uprightness, integrity, Transparency and so on .Truth is very important value. It is a personal trait. We cannot observe truth. We can observe truth by means of truthful behaviors and   by eschewing their opposites viz behaviors characterized by falsehood, like cheating, hoodwinking etc . It is denial, suppression or exaggeration of what happened. Denial of fundamental freedom of man and keeping people under slavery as happened to us during British colonialism are violation of truth and justice. We have such words of old wisdom as’Sathyameva jayate’ meaning only truth will triumph, Honesty is best policy and so on. A truthful person is happy, enjoys peace of mind and self –confident .He finds he is able to make use of his full potential. He is trust worthy and dependable. He also contributes to societal harmony and peace. We have the stunning example of Sri Harischandra, Apostle of truth. whose life story is given in our ancient Hindu texts. From the position of Maharaja, he lost everything. He was in utter poverty. He was separated from his wife and son. Ultimately to eke out living, he had to work as guard in a burning ghat. A small fee was levied for cremation of dead body. It happened that his wife brought the dead body of his son for cremation. Harischandra refused to cremate the body of his son, lest she paid the fee which she, being poor was unable to pay .Thus, Harischandra upheld truth, even when he confronted with a most tragic situation .He never compromised on truth even under the most trying situation in life.

Another example of embodiment of truth in the modern era is Mahatma Gandhi. All his actions in his life were guided by spirit of truth. He made conscious choice to live his life guided by the value of truth .He developed his weapon against British rule based on non-violence called ‘Sathyagraha’ or seeking truth which was based on his conviction that truth would win ultimately. In fact it happened, it brought realization to British colonialists that denying democratic rights to our people in our own country was not ethical and this feeling partly prompted them to give freedom. Gandhiji was honest even as a child. Once there was a test being given by the inspector., when  Ganghiji was studying in primary class.  Gandhiji mispelt the word ‘kettle’ His class teacher noticed , showed him correct spelling by writing it with the tip of his boots and urged him  to copy  without inspector noticing it . But Gandhiji refused to copy. He told his teacher later that he had not learned the art of copying, meaning that he had not learned dishonest behavior. He had learned the primary lessons of truth from his parents. As an honest person; he did not hide his shortcomings. He had admitted his mistakes with no worry at all. This we can see in his autobiography ‘My Experiments with Truth ‘.An honest man never goes back from his words. He fulfils whatever promises are made. Gandhiji had taken vow that he would not eat meat, nor drink nor smoke at the instance of his mother, when he was permitted to go England for his studies in law.  Eating meat, drinking and smoking were part of normal customs in England  and he had great difficulty in  avoiding those habits, in spite of that he wanted to honor his words given to his mother . He avoided all those habits with great difficulty and facing ridicule from his friends and became a teetotaler .In other words he wanted to be truthful. Considering every one as equal  and be fair to everyone rather than showing favoritism due to some personal gains is expression of truth .During freedom struggle, Gandhiji adopted the method of collecting  little amounts from people who came to him asking for his autograph to develop funds for social cause . His grandson Arun Gandhi, who was a small boy approached him for his autograph, as children are curious to do what elders do. Gandhiji told him that he should get him some money earned by him if he were to get his autograph. This shows that he did not favor even his grandson and he was staunch believer in truth. Similarly Gadhiji was very meticulous in keeping Accounts whether he was dealing with his private money or public funds to show to people that money is not misused. It was an act of honesty. People had no complaints against him regarding handling of finance.  Acts of misappropriation, fraud, scams and other economic offences denote lack of spirit of truth or integrity in public life. We find today what kind of damage those practices cause to our society. The value of truth to be practiced in the world of Business is called Business ethics. Of late, it is called corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is of much concern in today’s business world. Business corporations are not supposed to exploit any of its stake holders such as shareholders, employees, consumers/customers and the society.  . They should practice fair labor and trade policies.  Although there are laws to control  ethical business practices, one can escape from the clutches of law .Business ethics should be as a part of corporate responsibility and mission , only then corrupt practices in public life can be checked .

 13  Freedom from Anger

Anger is the worst enemy of man. It is a negative emotion.  Anger can happen in two situations: offensive and defensive. Offensive situations are those in which a person who tries to get something for him sees some one’s else as obstacle. The instant reaction could be anger. Defensive anger happens when the victim of aggression shows counter aggression, when he is offended by other person. In this case, anger on the part of one causes anger on the other, who is offended. A person, may feel angry towards another person, who belittles him or makes false accusations. A person may feel angry towards another person, when he encroaches upon his rights in property.  Mostly angry feelings are directed towards other person or persons. When a Ruler represses people, as happened in India under British Rule or apartheid in South Africa or discrimination based on color of the skin in South Africa, people turned against the regime. When there is dispute between two parties, the disputants may show angry behavior towards each other. Thus there are very many occasions in the lives of persons for expression of anger.
Anger may lead to war of words or quarrelling and abusing each other. It may lead to intimidation, assault and injury to the persons against whom one is angry. People in whose minds anger is accumulated can resort to act of cruelties and can instigate mass killings and destruction of properties. Accumulated anger can rupture personal relations and can lead to communal riots, terrorism, civil war and war between nations.
A person who lacks control over his emotions, due to emotional conflicts becomes angry easily or gets provoked easily and he resorts to violence. When a person is angry, his sense of what is right and what is wrong is numbed and he loses his sense of balance. His thinking power is paralyzed and acts impulsively. He would not know how disastrous could be his actions, when he is angry. He acts impulsively.

When people take to aggression as mode of resolution of conflict in their day to day life, culture of violence gets developed. It might permeate every aspect of our life: our language, sports, entertainments, business, Religion, Government and even education.
We should learn to control anger. In other words we should not get easily provoked or perceive threat. Even if there is sufficient reason for being offended, still one can remain unaffected, if one can remain calm while facing the situation. When we face threat, we should   withdraw our minds inside and away from the threatening situation and if possible focus them on some incidents of happiness , then the chances of arousal of  anger are less .We should adopt the method of discussion and debate , with mutual tolerance and accommodation and mutual trust and keeping before us a common and higher  goals or what is called super- ordinate goals and work through the problems in resolving  conflicts rather than taking to  confrontational approach . We should not be rigid, on the other hand should be compromising to reach a win-win –situation, such that both the contestants win. We should not develop prejudice, hatred and vindictiveness towards any one.  We should see others as good people, so that the chances for anger being aroused are less. One should not be adamant, but flexible in attitude. Those who are adamant get provoked easily. Fast life which induces stress and strain makes people to lose their temper easily. We call them as short tempered .We should calm our mind not by leading a hurried life and by practicing exercises like yoga, ‘Dhyana’ meaning meditation etc. A mind which is calm and composed will not get easily provoked. Such persons will not be easily provoked.

14.  Renunciation

Renunciation is checking our desire to seek more and more objects of pleasure and accumulate or hoard them. Those who   are rank materialists or those who believe that the purpose of life is solely to indulge in physical comforts and luxuries and  believe that whatever comforts are there outside, all  are created for man, might ceaselessly chase  them . They compete with each other as to see who posses   those which others do not .They may go to any extend to acquire sources of comforts .They may violate moral laws and laws of land and adopt cruel methods in the pursuit of  comforts. They hardly enjoy what ever they have acquired. This is in contrast with those who practice renunciation. They limit their wants. They can control their sense pleasures .They will not be gullible to outside sources of influences such as aggressive Advertisements .  They are not attracted by what others posses and gratified with they possess. Their  happiness is governed by moderation, austerity and contentment .They are the people who  are least selfish .When they don’t  have self-interest, they can serve the interest of others, who are in  need of service .They can partly live for others . They adopt fair means in acquiring wealth. They lead a Spartan or functional or simple life .They show least body-orientation, meaning, they don’t pamper their bodies. They give that much attention to their bodies required to be healthy to make use of their bodies for achieving higher purposes in life. They are the people who are inner directed as opposed to epicureans who are outer directed .Because, they hold the reign of life, they can direct their properly and achieve what they want and be happy with their achievements .Their energy is not frittered away, on the other hand is conserved and focused on the tasks they intend to complete .They are creators in society rather than consumers like other people .They contribute to societal goodness .They always keep pleasant dispositions . They while being happy make others too happy .They are to be the role models in society .They are not parasitic, on the other hand, self-sufficient. They are also dependable and trustworthy .The attitudes of renunciation can be cultivated and made a general habit, like any other behavioral traits. The real happiness comes from renunciation rather than possessiveness or indulgence .The real joy that comes out of renunciation is to be experienced rather than being heard .The happiness that comes out of renunciation, unlike the results of possessiveness and indulgence does not show diminishing returns., in the sense that our satisfaction with physical pleasures diminishes, once we experience them and we seek new sources of pleasures.

15  peacefulness.

Being peaceful means mind being calm and composed-a state of mental quietitude and equipoise. It is state in which mind is not agitated by wants, needs and emotions. We are able to realize our full potentialities, only when the mind is peaceful. Even if we are capable, we cannot use our capabilities, unless our mind is peaceful. Tension and stress which are opposite of being calm and peaceful have many harmful effects. However much attractive material comforts are, we cannot enjoy them, unless there is peace of mind .There should peace with in oneself, in relationships with others, national and international life. Being peaceful helps harmonious living .In peaceful life, we are able to make use of our ‘Viveka’ or discriminatory knowledge or knowledge of what is right and what is wrong .In today’s fast life, peace is difficult to attain.

Opposite of peace is being hostile. A highly self-centered person is hostile towards others, when they find others stand in the way of what he wants for himself. He forces to comply with his demands.. When a power- conscious person finds others not complying with his wishes, he turns violent. He scolds  them and may even cause his bodily injury .A person who  loves peace would refrain from using violent methods  in a conflict situation, he may prevail upon him and may appeal to his good senses , by which the opponent may come round . If we cultivate friendly feelings towards others, we would not get easily provoked and we would adopt a healthy strategy of conflict resolution. Those who follow peaceful approach would always find some constructive ways of resolving conflicts. They keep their temper in check .Peaceful approach is always constructive and it is for the good of both the contending parties. We should practice peace in our behavior; in our private as well public life .Only a person who enjoys inner peace can practice peaceful living. A person whose mind is agitated always cannot practice peaceful living. Families should present a peaceful atmosphere characterized by mutual support and concern for the wellbeing of each other .This is so because, family is the foundation of the nation. We should not resort to methods of confrontation with authorities like state in redressing public grievances; on the other hand we should resolve differences democratically through discussions and debate to settle any disputes amicably for both parties. Peaceful approach is possible, when we think at higher levels based on values of friendliness, tolerance of differences, accommodation and commitment to common welfare.  Nations too co-exist peacefully rather than being in strained relationships, by checking the tendency for self-aggrandizement and promoting mutual understanding and co-operation for developmental activities.

Gandhiji’s  life, both private and public is fine example of practice of peace. In his Autobiography ‘My experiments with truth’, we can find several examples of his exemplary life of peace .Even when he was insulted and tortured many times while he was in South Africa by racist regime, he never hit back or never offended those who offended him on the other hand, he always adopted healthy ways of dealing with the situations. He never showed hatred or vendetta towards his oppressors, on the other hand, he appealed to their good senses .His use of  his powerful weapon  Sathyagraha (in quest of truth) against oppression of Indians by the British  which ultimately defeated British was fine example of  peace in action and its immense power.

India, our country, as all we know is a peaceful country throughout ages. This value is handed over to us thousands of years back by our great saints. That is the reason we called our country spiritual. Although many imperialists wooed by our riches invaded our country and plundered and took away our riches, there is not even a single instance of our country invading any other country. When we got independence, we adopted a foreign policy called ‘Panchashila’ incorporating value  peace as one of the main pillars. It is doubtful, whether we practice of our rich tradition of peace in our day to day life today in our country, though we are the world leaders and proponents of peace .The communal violence we witness breaking in different parts of our country sporadically now and then, destroying peace, innocent lives and property attests this fact. There is need for bringing new awareness among our people of those lost values and determination to live them.

16 Not talk -ill of others

Not talking- ill of others is a good quality. In addition, if we can see good in others and speak about it, it is most laudable .We should keep our mind open by which we are able to see the strengths , merits and good qualities in others and able to appreciate those and try to cultivate those in one self .It is a positive personality trait or attitude. Such persons will see the short comings in  themselves and they would want to make their life more and more perfect. They would look for Role models to emulate. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that it is divine quality which helps to develop one’s full potential. Great people will always have their eyes on the strengths and not weaknesses of other persons. They talk about  good  qualities in others and never  high light their bad qualities .They will have some good words to say about any one whom they are acquainted with .Generally,  our tendency is to do just the opposite way . We try to find out weakness or bad qualities in others, overlooking their good qualities. We may even falsely  attribute bad qualities in others or criticize others baselessly. This happens particularly when a person is ill- disposed with another person. It is making comments on a person, with whom one is ill-disposed. It is slandering of a person usually with the malign motive of tarnishing his image or reputation. Some people may spread scandals or false accusations to tarnish the image of persons with whom they don’t enjoy good relations .Politicians are known to play dirty games. They discredit whatever opposite parties do or have done. They try to show the opposite party in poor light .They would focus on their failures than on their achievements. They may not say even a word what good opposite political party did for the people. This is called ‘propaganda’, in the case of which no attempt is made for objective assessment of performance of opposite political parties. .Mass media too engage in this kind of war of words, supporting a particular party or ideology. Those represent negative attitudes. Talking- ill of others amounts to hurting others, although no physical harm is involved. Calling derogatory names is another way of thinking- ill of others. For instance, the White minority Government in South Africa called Indians settlers there as ‘samy or cooly’, a derogatory term.

We should not look down upon any one, because of the feeling that we have name, fame, power, influence and affluence. Those should not be the criteria for the feelings of superiority .Beyond those criteria, which are manmade and purely transient, the greatness lies in being born as human beings.  All are equal at the time of birth and in the last journey. We should behave with each other with equal respect , as all are God’s magnificent creations .We should see others as important as we feel about ourselves .When we do that our mind expands , becomes  light and tremendous potentials are unleashed leading to  bliss.

17. compassion to all beings

Compassion is deep awareness of the sufferings of others, facing some misfortunes, from which arises the desire and readiness to help them and to alleviate their sufferings .A compassionate man will never hurt or give trouble to others. In addition, he is able to put himself in the positions of those who are suffering, able to feel the intensity of their sufferings and volunteers to   help that he can do either to alleviate or lessen the sufferings .A person who feeds hungry, a person who nurses sick, a person who attends to old or handicapped, a person who helps to relieve others from any kind of disadvantages including social and political are all persons of compassion. Donation of blood, marrow and organs is an act of compassion. The ability to share others sufferings and showing readiness to help are called sympathy .It is the very characteristic of an ideal human being. It is the quality of our heart. We should be sympathetic not only towards our fellow beings, but to all creations of the universe like animals and birds. Jainism   emphasizes compassionate behavior even to animal and birds. They build cattle sheds to take care of sick and old cattle The society for cruelty against animals works for compassionate treatment of animals Nature lovers show compassion towards plants and trees.. All Religions consider God as the most compassionate .Gandhiji and Nelson Mandela two of the stalwarts, world has ever seen are epitome of compassion. They were sympathetic towards Indians who were repressed by white regimes and spent their whole lives to emancipate them from slavery and also worked for their economic and social upliftment. Sathya Sai Baba, the spiritual Guru had said that God created rich people to help poor and healthy to look after the sick .This quality is closely related to other ethical qualities like love, non-violence and self-sacrifice .Only broad minded, not selfish or narrow minded people can be compassionate. Being compassionate lessens the strength of our egoism or possessiveness .Even if a person is not selfless in the beginning, he can practice acts of compassion, which might make him altruistic. No one is born selfish. Selfishness is the result of poor upbringing.  .Once, a person experiences goodness that comes out of compassionate acts,  being compassionate becomes part of his personality make up .

18. Not being covetous

Covetousness means tendency to hoard things, whether required or not. It arises from greed .It also shows up as jealousy and possessiveness .It is a instinctual or irrational behavior. Sometimes persons having that tendency may steal also, even if they are affluent. This tendency is called kleptomania .In this case; they don’t do it with the purpose of having any personal gain or benefit. Covetous person may desire to possess what he sees in others. There are people who hoard for personal gain of profit . For instance, merchants who are greedy follow unethical practice of hoarding goods, to create artificial scarcity in the market, to boost demand for their products, to sell them in higher price and to make quick money. Such people are anti-social elements .Although there is law under which hoarder is punished, those laws are not implemented properly or they circumvent the law by bribing the law enforcement officers.

Even without any ulterior motive, hoarding results in accumulation of things , which are wastes .It may also deprive others  who really need them .when we go for things more than we require, it creates artificial demand for products in the market and can lead to higher prices and inflation or increase in  cost of living which would affect all including poor .The healthy habit is to acquire only as much as we use and maintain them properly .If we  possess more things than we need, we may not  put those things to proper use  and it will be improper use of resources .We should value whatever things we have even if they are old and discard them only when they  no longer could be put to use .We should repair those who went out of order and use it  rather than accepting the current practice of ‘use and throw’. Whatever we find as waste, we should not throw it, we should recycle it .There is a saying ‘wealth from waste’. We should put everything to judicious use, because everything we use is part of resource, which might not be everlasting. Improper use of resources, natural or manmade can lead to depletion. It can cause untold miseries to mankind. We should not begullible to advertisements of newer and newer products, purchase them discarding the old .We should make deliberate attempt to check our tendency to run after the latest things for their status value. Newness of anything lasts only for a short while. What is new today becomes old tomorrow. Unless, we understand this reality our mind would be wavering like   monkey mind .We should accept the axiom ‘old is gold.

(To be Continued)
Shrimad Bhagavad Gita on Right way of living - (Part-3: Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)
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