Personal Growth - The wisdom of the passive voice
by K Gitanjali
As I walked into my English class, I was badly perturbed. There had been a theft in our staff room the previous week, and investigations were going on. My senior had been quizzing all of us the past week. She had been asking us if we had seen something queer, or if we had seen someone hanging around the staff room at the time of the theft.
This morning it had hit me suddenly. After everyone had left the staff room last week, I had gone back to pick up a book I had left behind, and I had happened to see a colleague of mine there. Now as I recollected the event, I remembered being surprised to see the fear in her face when she had seen me. The rest of the morning, I was in a dilemma. Should I tell my senior about the incident?
“Surely, I should not. Think of the trouble it would cause my colleague. Think of all that she would have to go through. She too must have come back like me, to pick up something she had left behind. What if she is innocent, and because of me she is branded a thief,” one part of my mind told me, while the other urged, “It is your duty to just say what you saw. Don’t bring personal judgments into it.”
A divided mind always creates hell, and finally I had to confide in a friend.
Ego creates diversions
“That’s just your ego creating divisions,” she pointed out with brutal frankness. “You have created an image of yourself as Miss Gentle and Nice and now you are scared to do the right thing, which is to throw light on the investigations, because you are scared of the image being shattered.”
I was shocked. I had always struggled and gone out of my way to be nice. I always acted with great care that whatever I said or did never hurt anyone. How could that be ego? Was non-violence because of the ego?
“Ego is trying to be always right and good. It wants to create the image of being good and right. Your fear of harming others does not stem from your concern for the other. If you go deep down, you will trace it to an image you want to create. The ego just follows a code of right doing, every moment uniformly. The soul is always spontaneous. The soul does things that need to be done without any second guessing. The question of doing what is right or wrong does not come into it. It just does what feels right each moment. What feels right now, may not be what feels right the next moment.”
“I hate being sneaky and telling tales and causing harm to people,” I said defensively.
“Telling tales for the sheer joy of getting others into trouble is different from telling the truth so that justice can be done.”
“However, you know that if I do say what I saw, you know who will be in deep trouble. Why do I have to put her in such trouble, when I am sure that she could not have anything to do with the theft?”
“How can you be so sure?” My friend asked me, “…and by the way, the reason why I said you have a big ego is that you think you are powerful enough to change the course of her life. You said, ‘Why do I have to put her into trouble?’ You keep saying you will be causing harm. The primary factor in all of it is I do, I do, and I do. If you were not egoistic, you would do the right thing, knowing you are just an instrument of God. You would know that it is God who runs the show.”
Active and passive
Therefore, that morning as I walked into English class after the talk with my friend, I was not at all happy to see that I had to teach grammar – especially the active and passive voice.
“How do you know that a sentence is in the active voice?” I asked mechanically.
Pat came the answer from one of my bright students. “The subject is the doer of the action. Example – Raju is hitting the ball. Here the stress is on the subject doing the action.”
“And the passive?”
“The subject receives the action,” another one quipped in. “The ball is being hit (by Raju). Here it is the action itself that is important, not the subject who is doing the action.”
I felt that I had been dealt a blow in the solar plexus. What my friend said was true. Instead of being a detached passive observer watching the universe happen and unfold, and playing my bit with involvement knowing it was all a play of consciousness, my ego had been unduly active, and entangled in the whole episode. I had fallen into the trap of thinking that something I did would have the power to change the course of someone’s life. I had not realised that there was a higher power running the universe, and perhaps the reason why that power had made me go back to the staff room at that particular moment, was that it wanted me to be an instrument through which justice could be ensured.
Conditioning can be quite strong, and though I had been given a message by the universe, I was still hesitant but the universe has a way of reinforcing its messages. That evening I went home to open a book by Osho.
You are the instrument
“The illusion that we are the doers makes us miserable,” Osho had written years ago, but the words seemed alive now as they leapt out at me. “God alone does. If you ask the waves if they are rushing towards the shore, they will answer ‘No. We are being rushed towards the shore.’ God takes over the very day man comes to know that just the way the wind blows, trees grow, and flowers bloom, he too is being moved. There is someone within him who moves and speaks.”
I realised in a flash that as long as we think we are doing things, and let the ego take over, we will not only create misery, but we will really block the universe’s flow within us, and end up doing things which are against the truth.
I tried replacing the active, “I am reporting her presence at the scene of the theft to the authorities,” to the passive, “Her presence is being reported to the authorities (by me).” I realised that in the latter case I was just an agent through which the universe acts. What was important in the drama was not the ‘I’ doing the reporting, but the act of reporting itself. That is true in every case. It is not the doer who is important. In each case, it is the universe ‘doing’ through various agents.
The next day I went forward as a chief witness to the case, and as it so happened, my colleague was found guilty of theft. She was treated kindly, and sent for counselling – the universe is kind, and steered the course of her life in the right direction.
K Geethanjali is a teacher,
writer, and healer, currently based
in Bangalore. She is the disciple
of Mahavatar Babaji. Perhaps ego had motivated my colleague to commit a mistake, and as I allowed the universe to function through me, it could be set right without further ado. If as an ego who wanted to be ‘nice’, I had kept mum, she would have gone her merry way, committing more such mistakes, and harming others and ultimately herself.
“I am not the doer, the universe moves me,” is my new mantra, and I find that it has really reduced a lot of stress.
What a relief to let go of a petty little self rushing around ‘doing,’ and let yourself be moved by the universe. What a relief, when you are confronted with some daunting task, to surrender to the universe, knowing it will move you to take right action, instead of worrying about how ‘I’ will get things done. When I need to teach, I am not teaching, the teaching is happening through me. The result, a deep peace, which passeth understanding, which is very different from the emotional highs and lows, which accompany the feeling that I do. I give my best to a job and then let go.
Maybe that is what Krishna really meant, when he told Arjuna to give up his confusion, to take up his arms and fight – fight to uphold dharma, knowing that he by himself could never do anything. Krishna was telling him to let go, and let God – that he was just being used as an instrument, for the divine play to unfold itself and establish perfection.
I am changing my role from the active to the passive. I am working on removing the illusion of the doer, and while I do things, I know that I am just an agent through which the happening takes place. Once I become the passive witness, acting according to the urges of the universe, ironically enough, I am able to play my role in the drama of life with more joy and involvement.
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