By Life Positive November 2008 Inner strength lets us control and overcome mental and emotional reactions. in turn, we are able to realise our full potential Vedanta teaches us that man’s true nature is divine, eternally blissful, and ever free. Swami Vivekananda says that it is because of weakness that we have not realised our full potential. The underlying source of human weakness is the dual experience of attraction and aversion. We all fall prey to attraction and aversion in one form or another. This is where our weakness lies. Ironically, weakness often manifests itself in ways we have come to associate with strength. We are forever trying to make our weakness look like strength, our sentiment like love, and our cowardice like courage. The strong and the weak are characterised not by their basic inner character, but by the way they react to external situations, and by the way they interact with others. Most of us fit somewhere in between these two extremes. Inner strength lies in the ability to recognise and overcome weakness. This strength can only come by tapping the infinite source of strength within. According to Swami Shivananda, “Physical strength is the first requisite of spiritual life.” Swami Vivekananda says, “You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the Gita.” Physical strength is emphasised to this degree because it is easier for a strong body to hold a strong mind. The key to physical strength and health is moderation. However, true inner strength lies on a much subtler plane. Strength is to control and overcome the mental and emotional reactions, not merely their physical expressions. Our reactions to objects, ideas, situations, and people fall into three general categories: attraction, aversion, and indifference. The stronger the attachment and aversion, the stronger the emotions and the more extreme our reactions will be. Indifference poses no such problem. Neither does it give any opportunity for the cultivation of strength. “The wall never feels misery, the wall never loves, is never hurt, but it is a wall, after all. Surely it is better to be attached and caught than to be a wall,” says Vivekananda. At the very foundation of strength lies the ability to be true to oneself, to strip oneself of all show, all pretence, and to extradite oneself from the bondage of what others may think. If we try to please everybody all the time, there must be something wrong with us. Dependence on the actions and reactions of others for one’s well-being only breeds further weakness. “The Self alone is one’s friend; the Self alone is one’s enemy,” says the Gita. We must have faith in ourselves. To achieve this, strength-giving thoughts must be nourished and those that breed weakness, rejected. In the scriptures, as in everyday life, fearlessness is the one trait most often associated with strength. Selfishness is the single greatest impediment to fearlessness and strength. The weak live solely for themselves; the strong exist for the world. The idea of oneness is the most direct and immediate remedy for weakness. The theme of getting strength from God runs throughout the scriptures of all religions. “I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me.”(23rd Psalm) “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength.”(Isaiah)The secret of strength for those who believe in God, is to feel the steady grip of His hand – in the midst of trials, fear, anger, passion, and, finally, death.
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