By Suma Varughese
Good is good and bad is good. When you can ford this duality and accept both in the same manner, the grand design of life reveals itself.
Life, when you come to think of it, is really an unmixed blessing. Everything, everything, has something to teach us. Nothing goes waste, nothing is bad, everything works out for our ultimate good. A crow shitting on your brand-new dupatta is here to teach you tolerance and acceptance- how kind of the crow! A traffic jam gives you an excellent opportunity to experience your frustration and overcome it. How kind of those who engineered it! A manipulative colleague is here to teach you to overcome anger and a sense of victimization. It is good indeed of the colleague to take on such bad karma in order to help you grow.
This approach can seem almost sarcastic, but if we really see all those who trigger our buttons and inflame our issues as benefactors, and not pains in the neck, permanent peace, joy and happiness will be ours.
Life has thrown us an enormous riddle, the crux of which is to obtain the lasting peace and equanimity that we are programmed to yearn for, while fielding the innumerable small irritants, and occasional major traumas and tragedies it bowls at us, virtually non-stop. THIS IS LIFE. There is no exit, no short-cut, no way out. Even death is not a solution, because after a while, back we come to the playing field and face that baneful bowler all over again. This is the supreme game of life and it is to master this that we take birth time and again.
Alas, we don’t know this and like novice players we flinch against the onslaught, hit back at those who hit us, run away from the playing field and sink into stupor, or divert ourselves into some dead-end pursuit like making money or making love-everything but play the game.
At some point or the other-and it is an individual moment for all of us-something gives. We tire of the meaningless pain of existence. We long, this time sincerely, to end all suffering.
Thus is born the seeker, and behold, his suffering reaches a fresh pitch. There is no more running away, no more living in illusions. As the seeker determinedly faces the reality of things, his notions of himself and life become a flux. He realizes he is not the goody two-shoes he always thought he was. He realizes the world is not out to get him, but is simply a reflection of his own attitude. A dispiriting and acutely painful discovery. But this is the shadowland all travelers to the Sunny Shore must go through. There is no way out. Courageously he sets out, battling and overcoming his many fears, desires, and selfishness. In time, with patience, the terrible crossing is over. He realizes he is not a victim. Indeed, he could be a victor!
When we arrive at this understanding, the seeking begins to give fruit. Instead of blaming others and life itself for our reactions and predicaments, we take the dialog within. Instead of blaming your friend for being critical of you, you look to see if there is some truth to what he says. Instead of being bruised by a snub from someone you wanted to impress, you take responsibility for your faulty motivation. As we slowly start taking more and more responsibility for our states of mind, for our happiness and growth, life begins to develop a feisty flavor. We are developing our batting skills and the fearsome bowler is not quite so daunting any more.
In fact, on good days he can actually be exhilarating. Those are the days that we grow quantumly. We don’t fight back when the lady behind us in the crowded local shrieks at us. When the vegetable vendor tries to cheat us of a tenner, we do not rave. Instead, we politely bur firmly explain how much he owes us. When the one we love declares that she is calling the whole thing off, we swallow hard and find the grace to let go. When our classmate gets the scholarship we longed for, we actually find the space to be happy for her. Each time we extend ourselves to go beyond our narrow ego-self, we expand in consciousness and grow in stature. And each time we do this, our happiness quotient is notched up a tiny bit.
A sense of empowerment fills us. This thing called life is beginning to work. We learn to relax a bit, and let down our guard. A sense of being up against it, of battling against life begins to lift. We stop resisting life. When the doorbell rings while you are in the bath, you no longer curse, but peacefully continue with the bath, or peacefully don a bathrobe and open the door. When the neighbor buys all the large eggs and leaves you with minnows, it is no longer a case for flouncing inside and banging the door shut. When her husband parks his car in your space, you don’t hop with rage. You sort out the matter tactfully and considerately and what’s more, you not only have your parking space but you have a friend too. You discover that there are no foes, only friends. Life and you are moving in the same direction. There is nothing that life gives you which you don’t want. Hunger, famine, plague, illness, accidents, the very worst that life can throw at you-you have room for them all. You embrace them to yourself and make them part of you.
A quiet hum of gratitude begins to rise. How wonderful life is! How glorious is its design. Sadhu Vaswani, founder of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission,used to have a one-word prayer always on his lips, ‘Shukhar.’
Finally, that’s all that’s left. Shukhar.
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