By Jamuna Rangachari
Between indifference and equanimity, there lies a thin but crucial line, which we all need to cross to attain inner peace and tranquillity
When the election results announced the victory of a person gone beyond all levels of basic human decency, causing injury to many, a sense of despondency engulfed me yet again. “This is the way of the world. It is after all, Kaliyug,” said my old aunt. “How does it matter to us?” said others.Should we focus only on the things that matter to us directly? Are we not concerned with what happens around us? Ignoring all ills seemed a rather lame, indifferent response. Yet, what was the use of getting all worked up? How do we strike a balance between remaining connected and yet detached, concerned yet calm?
Respond, do not react
“Initially I do get quite upset and angry (seeing things going wrong). Formerly, I used to suppress these feelings considering them unhealthy. Now that I have become aware that anger is normal, calling for an appropriate response rather than a violent reaction, I try out various ways of keeping calm and cool,” says Father Prashant Olalekar, a Jesuit priest involved in many social initiatives, and the director of Pasayadaan Holistic Spirituality Centre at Nala in Thane district.
Padmini Kumar, who works with Swami Agnivesh, says, “Every time one faces such a situation (of getting disturbed due to the wrongs in society), one is usually agitated, disturbed or depressed. Once one overcomes it, one realises that one should have had some restraint or dealt with it more calmly.” Padmini finds yoga, reading and being with nature very calming and helpful. To maintain the balance, spiritual practices are most helpful. “I find interplay, movement meditation and mindfulness excellent ways to keep a balance and work towards constructive change. Approaches to spirituality like the beatitudes of Jesus, the ahimsa of Gandhi, mindfulness of Thich Nhat Hanh and discernment of St Ignatius of Loyola have made a big difference to me,” says Father Prashant. “It does take time to develop a sense of equanimity. It can be achieved to some extent after long discipline and self-catechesis,” Rev Dr Dominic Emmanuel SVD, director and spokesperson of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, declares. Finding most comfort from Jesus’s teachings, he adds, “The principle of yin and yang or even the middle path taught by Gautama the Buddha, have also been of help to me in maintaining equanimity. ”
“I can find only three kinds of business in the universe; my, yours and God’s. Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our business,” says Byron Katie. Talking of social concerns, she adds, “When I am worried about earthquakes, floods, war, or when I will die, I am in God’s business. If I am mentally in your business or in God’s business, the effect is separation.” Byron Katie has helped many people come to terms with reality.We all have control only over our own inner self. The moment we realise this, we become much more focused and oriented to improving this valuable resource.
Little drops of water
Looking into life, we notice how it continually moves between contrasts – rise and fall, success and failure, loss and gain, honour and blame. Once we begin observing this pattern in our personal lives, we realise that whether at the personal or social level, a reaction only complicates matters. Only when we calm down, and our feelings settle down in the island of equanimity, can we be effective. We must remember, however, that the equanimity required should be based on vigilant presence of mind. It has to be the result of hard, deliberate training and focus on spiritual principles.When I think about how spiritual greats face the world, I realise that it is these very principles and the hard work on themselves that have always guided them in their lives. “Without compassion, the brain power that distinguishes humans from other animals can be a destructive force,” avers the Dalai Lama, who shows us how it is possible to remain steadfast to spiritual principles even in the face of adversity.
Even great souls do have moments of doubt. Here again, it is the strength of eternal principles, which makes it possible for one to continue on the path. “When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall,” Mahatma Gandhi had said, when asked how he coped with adversity. Hence, act we must, by participating in the society we happen to be in at any given space and time, but always from the spirit of surrender to the Divine will and working on our own inner self. Ultimately then, a clear understanding of how the vicissitudes of life originate, and of our own true nature, helps us understand the one true refuge where they can be allayed, through our own actions in thought and deed. Little drops of water do make an ocean. Let us not forget that each of us can contribute, albeit in a minuscule way, to peace and serenity in the vast ocean of life, with our very being.
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Fr. Dominic Emmanuel
“Equanamity can be achieved after long discipline and self-catechesis.”
Fr. Prashant Olalekar
“Interplay, movement meditation and mindfulness help me stay balanced.”
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