Personal Growth - The secret to greatness
by Sanjiv Ranjan
“The Vedanta recognises no sin, it only recognises error. And the greatest error, says the Vedanta, is to say that you are weak, that you are a sinner, a miserable creature, and that you have no power.”
These are the words of one of the greatest spiritual leaders of this century, Swami Vivekananda. They are symbolic of the culture we belong to – of our magnificent heritage which has forever stood firm in its belief that when God created man, He bestowed upon him His own power.
We belong to a culture which has always celebrated power, which has understood its depth . . . and by virtue of understanding its depth, deep down in our soul, in our wiser mind, we know that power which precedes responsibility is dangerous energy and often results in miscreation. An excellent example of power which preceded responsibility is the story of the demon king, Bhasmasur. For thousands of years, Bhasmasur prayed to Lord Shiva for immortality. Lord Shiva refused, and told him to ask for something else. Bhasmasur asked that he be granted the power to turn anything which he touched on the head, into ashes.
“So be it,” was the response.
In that very instance, Bhasmasur saw Parvati, Shiva’s wife, and was completely enchanted. He wanted her to marry him, but for that, Shiva had to be killed. Bhasmasur began chasing the one who had granted him the power, and the only option left to Shiva was to run. Shiva prayed to Lord Vishnu to help him. Vishnu then took on an enchanting female form, known as Mohini.
The moment Bhasmasur saw Mohini, he was smitten by her and began to plead for her hand in marriage. Mohini told Bhasmasur that she would marry him only if he could match her in dance, step by step. Bhasmasur agreed. He gradually forgot the power which burned within his hands, and there came a moment when he mirrored Mohini’s action, and touched his own head.And through the power of his newly granted boon, he himself was turned to ashes.
The power that he had prayed for had destroyed his own life. This is one aspect of power.
On the other hand, our epics are also full of stories where great responsibility preceded great power.
The leap of responsibility
There is an incident in the life of Lord Rama when someone has to leap across the Indian Ocean to land in Lanka, and bring back his wife Sita, being held captive by the mighty demon king, Ravana. While others see it as an enormous and impossible task, Hanuman takes the challenge, the responsibility, of bringing back his master’s wife.
And it is only then that he is made aware that he has the power to fly. Fly he does, across the ocean, with complete élan, and completes his mission successfully.
What is even more noteworthy is that Hanuman was born with the power to fly, but being powerful before he took on a great responsibility, made him frisky and annoying, so the power was taken away from him in childhood itself, and restored only when he took on a responsibility which was great.
Mythology is a wise teacher. Like life, she teaches you in ways which are subtle. She teaches you by allowing you to learn. The learning comes when the time is ripe. The story of Hanuman’s leap across the ocean, his discovery that he could fly, teaches us a very powerful lesson, which is that it is only when you take on a great responsibility that the greatest power is gifted to you.
History is full of events where those who took on a great responsibility, accessed their deepest potential, and lived from power, position and strength.
It is responsibility which turned one frail, dhoti-clad man into the Mahatma, the father of an independent nation, who wrested its freedom out of the hands of an empire which had ruled the world as well as the seas for more than three centuries.
It is responsibility which gave Anne Sullivan the power to effectively teach a child as severely challenged as Helen Keller, and nurture her into one of the most loved, inspirational teachers in this world.
Responsibility is the force which pulls power into you. The greater the responsibility you take upon your self, the deeper is the power which descends into you.
What is power?
Is having endless sums of money, which can help you to buy anything in the world, power?
No, it is not. It will only give you an illusion of power. For the moment the money is lost, which is always a possibility in an uncertain world, your castle of dreams comes crumbling down.
But knowing that even if every penny that you possess is taken away from you, you can make it all over again, from a heap of rubble and stones, definitely means that you live from power. Because now you have nothing to fear, nothing that you depend upon except yourself, and your ability to create.
This is true power, the power to create wealth out of nothing at all, the power of vision, the ability to see things that no one before you saw or thought about, even though the opportunity was visible to all.
Consider Newton, who discovered gravity through the apple that fell upon his head, or Edison, who created the light bulb when he realised that running electricity through a high resistance filament produced light.
Does beauty or fame make you powerful?
It give you nothing but the illusion of power, that too if you are seeking to control through manipulation, and if you are willing to live a life limited and orchestrated by public opinion.
Both are double-edged swords, for the blades which move outwards, cut far deeper and hurt much more grievously within.
The power of love But having love in your heart does make you powerful. Love is love when it is not sought, but intensely felt, in a place deep inside you. It first overwhelms you, and then by virtue of having overwhelmed, it overflows.
But such a love is possible only when you realise that love is not a transaction, or a ‘mergers and acquisition’ deal between two people. It is the force that you were born with, so that you could command the universe.
When you come home to your Self, when you understand who you are, when you live from your divine lineage, it is only then that love takes on tidal proportions in your life and moves beyond being a transaction of how much was given and how much received.
I was once in therapy with a lady who had desperately sought love all her life. In an attempt to buy love from those whom she cared for, she went to great lengths to please them, often at the cost of her own freedom and happiness.
For her, love began with notions of giving, and the more she gave to a relationship, the greater were her expectations from it.
She was trapped in giving and receiving, and most of the time she felt an aching emptiness in her heart, for she was constantly depleting herself in the process.
When we explored her inner world we discovered a deep-seated feeling of rejection, which she attributed as coming from her mother. In the process she had rejected herself, and had very little self-love. Lack of self-love made her behave like a sacrificial lamb in any relationship she pursued, and at the end, all she was left with were a handful of bitter memories.
Through restorative therapy she learned to let go of the rejection. She allowed love for her Self to emerge from deep within. And when self-love finally came to the surface, such was its brilliance that it drew into her life a man who deeply loved her, and together they explored life beautifully and creatively, completely immersed in each other.
Love is a tidal wave. It resides in the ocean of your heart, and the first to be drowned in it shall always be you. The moment you have drowned in it, love will create a formidable energy field around you.
Love is far more powerful than beauty.
And love is far more powerful than fame when a revolution is the need of the hour.
A revolution is always about healing structures which are crumbling, it is always about change, it is a renewal of the minds of people, the way they think, feel and behave. And for this, you need love in your heart. You need to unleash its formidable power into society, for love is the deepest healing force in the universe.
The essence of ‘true power’
True power cannot be contained within money, social status, beauty, fame, or wealth, for there is nothing eternal in these attributes.
True power does not depend on anything outside of you. It is what resides within you.
True power is the genius and creativity which lie within your mind, the compassion and love that flower within your heart, as well as the strength and vitality that hold together your body.
It is the life force which flows in your blood, which makes you hold your head high in defeat, and humble in victory, which makes you accept both with pride, dignity and equanimity.
And the only ways to invite true power into your experience are:
• To believe in it. To believe that you are capable of tremendous creativity, that genius lies with you, that in your heart you have enough love to heal the whole planet, and that your physical body has immense restorative powers.
• To live through responsibility.
What is responsibility?
Responsibility is your ability to respond to a person, a situation, to the present moment as well as to life.
To understand responsibility in greater depth, you have to know how a response is different from a reaction. You respond when you are connected and in sync with what is happening in the here and now.
You react, when you have dissociated from what is happening in the moment, and your mind has moved into your past. You are equating something which is happening in the here and now, with something which happened in the past, and this results in what is known as an abreaction. An abreaction is an abnormal reaction, abnormal by virtue of its dissociation with the current situation.
To react is to re-act, to repeat an action which has taken place earlier. When you re-act, you do not allow yourself to experience something new. So, effectively, a re-active personality remains stuck in the old, and loses the ability to renew itself, a phenomenon which results in stagnation and loss of personal power.
To be responsive, you need to move out of your past and make an effort to sensitise yourself to what is taking place in the here and now.
A lot of people tend to confuse the word ‘responsibility,’ with the word ‘duty.’ Responsibility can never be a duty. A duty is binding, it stems from compulsion, and compulsion is loveless. You are doing something not because you love doing it, but because you feel compelled to do it, so that you can protect your image, the false personality, which you regularly invest in. That is why it depletes you.
Responsibility always empowers and energises, responsibility is liberating. It is liberating because it is something that you truly want to do, something that you love doing, and the decision to do or not do, is solely yours. It does not depend on anything outside of you.
Responsibility also denotes the willingness to take onus for the state of your mind, as well as an acknowledgment of the fact that whatsoever you draw into your life was created by you. It is the ability to respond to life, without feeling like a victim.
The essence of being a victim is the habit of thought, where within your mind you are constantly finding fault, and blaming somebody else for everything tragic which is happening to you. The tragedy is not even real. It is simply a perception, created so that you can hide behind the deceptive wall of self-pity.
To think of yourself as a victim is to give your power away. To think of yourself as a victim is to allow others to make life difficult for you, by killing your intelligence. Your intelligence dies the moment you make someone else responsible for your life and your state of joy, because now it is not needed. You are not the captain of your ship, so you do not need to navigate where you are heading. Somebody else is at the wheel, and all you need to do is sit back and watch, and if the ship gets steered into stormy waters, you have someone to blame.
Anybody can blame. Blame does not require intelligence. Blame requires the presence of another, but responsibility belongs to the Self alone.
Responsibility is the only faculty you need if you wish to serve your grandest vision of yourself, and it is only through responding to the moment that you will discover ‘your’ calling, the true purpose behind your presence on Earth.
Inherently, by biological design, you are response-enabled. Every cell in your body is programmed through its ability to respond to the environment, and respond it does, from moment to moment.
You are alive by virtue of cellular responsiveness, and responsibility is a very vital link, one which gives birth to well-being.
Your cells respond to the environment through their outermost covering, which is known as the cell mem-‘brane.’ The cell membrane is the actual brain of the cell, and not the nucleus, as commonly perceived. The nucleus only carries reproductive material, which becomes important when the cell has to replicate.
When the cell membrane loses its ability to respond to its environment . . .which is blood in the case of humans, life-threatening diseases like diabetes are born. A very common misconception in those who do not know the pathological details of diabetes is that it occurs due to a lack of insulin. This is a fallacy, if we are talking about the commonly encountered Type 2 diabetes.
In Type 2 diabetes there is enough insulin in the blood which surrounds the cell, but the cell loses its ability to respond to the insulin – it becomes insulin resistant – rendering it incapable of absorbing sugar from the bloodstream.
The same phenomenon happens within your mind. You may be constantly surrounded by the sweetness of life, but your inner world can be completely starved, because you have lost the ability to ‘respond.’
And because you cannot respond, you develop resistance to joy, to grace, to effortless living and creativity, and you lose the ability to absorb . . . from life, its essence. So how can we be more responsive?
How can we live from a greater responsibility?
How can we absorb power into our life, power which is constantly flowing in dizzying, eddying currents around us?
Blame and criticism erode responsibility
Responsiveness and responsibility have two very dreaded enemies. Both of them are dangerous, because they take you away from yourself. They cut off your connection with the current of life, and leave you powerless.
These two deadly states of being are the energy of blame and the energy of criticism, twin sisters, evil by design, evil because they do not let you live.
They will never let you experience your true potential, your inner power. They keep your grandest vision of yourself locked away in a deep dark dungeon, within your unconscious mind.
To blame is to ‘b’ lame
Just for a day take a look into your mind. Honestly watch your thoughts. And you will know how much you invest in the energy of blame.
If things are not going right with health, then blame it on the doctor. If the country is in the midst of a fiscal disaster, blame it on the politicians. If your children are not learning the right values, deflect the blame to television. If your relationship is not too great, then blame it on your partner.
Blame the system. Blame the roads. Blame the rain. Blame your parents, your boss, your company, your friends, your relatives, your children and so on and so forth. And if that is not enough, then blame life, and from there move on to blaming God. I have met at least a dozen people in therapy who said that they were miserable because God did not want them to be happy.
And as if this is not enough, some go on to blame destiny and their past karma. Blaming your past karma is the best way to avoid taking onus for what is happening in the here and now, because there is nothing you can do about it except lament. Lamentation does not require any energy or intelligence.
Some take it even further by blaming themselves. They think that blaming themselves is taking responsibility. It makes them feel great about themselves. But blaming yourself is the neatest route to take if you want to run away from being responsible. Because when you blame yourself, you have gratified your own ego, and now there is no need for redemptive action.
Blame is infectious, and like all infectious diseases it gives you a temporary respite from work. You can lie down in bed and do nothing. You can put the ball in someone else’s court, so that you do not have to serve. But ultimately the blame game will cripple you, because to blame is to 'b' lame.
To experience being powerful, you have to withdraw yourself from the energy of blame.
Given below is a very simple exercise, which can become a very liberating part of your life.
Exercise: Dissociating from blame
No matter what is happening around you, resist the temptation to blame. When you move into blaming a person, a situation, an organisation or an institution, you let go of your personal power to orchestrate change.
In general, the moment you catch yourself engaging in an inner dialogue, which makes someone else responsible for the way you are feeling, or the way things are – stop. Now write down the names of all those people whom you habitually blame.
In front of each name, write down –
I take responsibility for what is happening between us. I am willing to conquer the enemy within.
Now reflect and write -
What can I do to change this situation?
Most of us live from an overwhelming need to condemn. We love finding fault with others. But we need to understand that we are all imperfectly perfect, each one of us, serving life in our own unique way.
Nobody is perfect. In fact, the very notion of perfection gives birth to evil, because perfection is a mind-made entity which can consume and burn human lives, reducing them to ashes.
Nothing in nature is perfect, yet nature has its own stunning splendour. Have you ever seen a perfect tree, a perfect leaf, a perfect sunset? No, what you see is seamless imperfection, soaked in beauty.
A quest for perfection takes you away from your true self, and the further away you move from your true Self, the more judgmental you become. Judgment kills your power, because it destroys your ability to love.
So decide now that you will renounce criticism, as well as any notions of perfection which you may be carrying. Once again there is a very simple yet immensely liberating exercise, which can relieve you from the negative energy of criticism, if you make it an integral part of your life.
Exercise: Let go of the need to condemn
When you see someone for whom you feel hatred, or dislike, whose actions you feel like criticising or condemning, remind yourself that no one can be exactly the way you want them to ‘be.’
Remind yourself that each one is here to play a part, and what gives strength to a culture is diversity. Remember that when you condemn, a part of you shrivels up and dies . . . for there was a deeper understanding of human nature which was waiting to be born within you, and through criticism of the other, it died.
Now make a list of all those whom you regularly criticise or condemn. Write down their names and what you detest about them, and then in front of each detestable attribute, write down: But for the grace of God, that could have been me. Do this exercise regularly, and your ego will melt gently like frost on a frozen window pane, submitting to the sun’s warm, mellow light.
Liberate your mind from the energy of condemnation. It is toxic. There is no need for it, nor is there any need to justify.
The moment you move out of blame and being critical, your mind begins to move into the Self. The moment it begins to move into the Self, it attains purity. The moment it attains purity, you will unlock your sacred mission and walk the path that leads to a powerful life.
The miracle of power through responsibility
Responsibility is a rare trait. It is rare because the human race prefers the past to the moment. It is afraid of responding to life. It would rather escape than stand up and face it. This is because through the ages, unknown to you, your subconscious mind has been programmed to see life as a burden, a punishment, a battlefield, where you are continuously at war with yourself and those whom you love the most.
Your subconscious mind has been programmed to think that pain is a natural part of living, and some even stretch it to the point of postulating that without going through pain, you cannot find God.
There is nothing spiritual about pain. Pain is simply your ego’s resistance to the emerging essence of your soul. It is the cocoon which encloses your mind, which thinks that the death of the caterpillar is to be moaned, and in the process, cannot see the emerging butterfly.
We are slowly moving into a Golden Age, and to experience bliss consciousness, we have to let go of pain consciousness, because pain takes your power away, and it makes you believe that life is difficult. You blame life and blame once again makes you lame; it does not let you live through responsiveness. Life is a struggle, only if you do not have faith in the strength of your wings; if you do not want to let go of the cocoon of your understanding of yourself, and allow the expansion of your being.
There is a very simple, uplifting exercise, which can change the struggles of your life into an expansion of the horizons within your mind.
Exercise: The expansion of being
Take a pen and right down everything in the ‘here and now’ which seems like a struggle to you.
(Do not attempt this exercise mentally, you have to write.)
Once you have written down everything, take a look at what you have written, and take up the one which seems most insurmountable. Underline it, and below it, write –
“I have tremendous faith in myself to rise above this, and what I perceive as a struggle is only life challenging me to go beyond myself. And go beyond, I shall.” Do this every day for a few days, till you can feel the change in the way you feel.
Responsibility and moksha
Life will challenge you, because it believes in your divinity.
But unfortunately, the moment you feel challenged you want to run away from responsibility. You would rather render yourself numb. You want to escape. The moment you try and escape, you miss the whole point, because the only thing you are escaping from is your own self, your own potential, your own depth.
And one of the best ways to escape from what life is demanding from you is to seek refuge in spirituality, to burden yourself with the quest of finding God, in a place outside you. Countless men and women who entered into personal therapy sought salvation from life on Earth. They wanted this to be their last birth. Even as they lived, they sought respite in what they called moksha, and so they chased spiritual life.
Even as they sought moksha as a means of escape from earthly travails, they were afraid of death, they were afraid of misfortune, they could not deal with loss. And because they were afraid of death, they were afraid to live, for whatever has lived fully will die.
But moksha is the ultimate loss. It is a complete letting go. Nothing is left with you, not even the sense of being you.
And death in its truest sense is the peak of having lived totally, having lived so totally that one died totally, and then there was no question of being reborn.
Moksha is the death of the soul, death through reunion with the Source, just the way lovers die, through union with each other.
You can never enter salvation if you are afraid of a physical death, if you are afraid of emotional death, if you are not comfortable with the loss of reason, because even though they may seem to be profound deaths to you, it is only the beginning of the road.
The way to let go of the fear of death, the way to let go of all the burdens which you are carrying, is to live totally, upon this Earth, without seeking any escape from life. And when you begin to live totally, there will come a moment when your love for yourself will touch a crescendo, and in that moment, you will experience fully, how deeply you are reflecting God.
If God is the ocean, you are the sky. And in that moment when you see yourself as the mirror of God, there is no question of salvation, no need or desire for it, for you are that which you are seeking. The ‘seeker’ and the ‘sought’ is one.
The grace of life
The Srimad Bhagvatam, a profound Indian scripture, says that only those who are blessed come to Earth in the human form. Even the residents of heaven, the divine beings we worship, yearn for an Earthly life. It is said that Indra once prayed to Vishnu and with folded hands said, “My lord, grant me the experience of life on Earth, even if it would be that of an insect.”
Why would the king of heaven ask for the incarnation of an insect on Earth?
Because it is only on Earth that there is Life.
Life is a rare experience in the universe. That is why all our neighbouring planets and galaxies are lifeless. Even up to billions of light years away, there is no evidence of life. That is why being alive on Earth is grace –you are participating in a celestial miracle.
To experience true power and to live through responsibility, you have to love life. You have to feel blessed to be here on this plane of existence. You have to love yourself with so much depth that you begin to rise above the mundane. And when your love for life and your love for yourself come into complete alignment, only then can you move into the moment, and respond to it creatively. And thus create a beautiful life for yourself.
Power is communion with the Self
Power is nothing but an intense connection with the Self. When your connection with the Self is deep, and all circuits complete, you become ready for the current to flow. Even right now, you can renew your stance. You were given the right to choose how you wish to live. You can believe that you are a weak, miserable and powerless being, and in doing so miss the whole point of why you are here on Earth.
You can be like Bhasmasur, lust after power which does not seek to fulfil a great responsibility, and in the process destroy the very integrity of your being. Or you can be like Hanuman, who does not seek power, but faces the moment and plunges forward to take on a great responsibility, and in the process you can go beyond yourself, by living a truly fulfilling and purposeful life. And experience true power in return.
Power, when true, when it stems from responsibility, is infectious. What starts as a ripple in the ocean of life, very soon becomes waves which ride together, towards a greater shore, in unison.
And that power begins with you, resides within you. It is the force which makes you breathe even as you sleep, for it is embedded in your DNA. It relentlessly patrols your brain. It drums through your heartbeat, flows within your veins and all it seeks is release.
It is only then that you will wake up to your deepest potential, It is only then that you will participate in the great, grand adventure which is life.
So, love life as deeply as you can.
Love yourself, as deeply as you can.
Believe that the universe celebrates your decision, to live more than you ever thought you can, for it is only in living totally that you obtain the miracle, which is known as Salvation. To realise your true powers and being responsive to every moment which life presents to you, is the real salvation.
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