Namaste! Let me start by thanking Sri Dennis Waite and Sri Peter Bonnici for having invited me to think aloud amidst you and share the traditional wisdom of Advaita Vedānta with you. This very site and all its contents are for the amelioration of the Individual and through that, the whole Society and hence a lot of puṇya accrues to them. May them and their families and friends be blessed by īśvara.
Over a series of blogs, I intend presenting the complete Vision of Advaita Vedānta, not swerving from the tradition and yet applied to current day context. There will be continuity of Ideas between the blogs and I would like readers to be aware of this when they read the individual blogs; afterall, isn’t the individual always connected to the total? I shall endeavor to publish the blogs within reasonable time of each other so that the overall vision is not lost.
I commence my first blog entitled “Success”, with my prayers to īśvara that may my attempt in presenting the Vision of Advaita Vedānta be successful and may its readers benefit from the wisdom contained therein.
Everyone wants to succeed in life, whatever be their definition of success. The definition varies according to the stage in life in which they are. For a Student, it is success in exams, for a Youth, it is success in love, for a Married Middle Aged Person, it is success in his profession and for an Old Person, it is healthy life.
Whatever one’s definition of success be, one has to setup “Clear Goals” with timelines and measurable indicators for one to assess oneself as successful. Unfortunately, most of us do not have enough clarity on our Goals; that needs to be fixed first. “Goal Setting” is not my topic and hence let us assume that one has a very clear idea of one’s goal; now it becomes important to know what the factors that contribute to success are. This is what ṛṣis (seers) have to say in this regard;
उद्यमं साहसं धैर्यं बुद्धिः शक्तिः पराक्रमः। षडेते यत्र वर्तन्ते तत्र देवः सहायकृत्॥
udyamaṁ sāhasaṁ dhairyaṁ buddhiḥ śaktiḥ parākramaḥ|
ṣaḍete yatra vartante tatra devaḥ sahāyakṛt|| – subhāṣitam
udyamaṁ – effort, which is proper, adequate and well directed, sāhasaṁ – enthusiasm, dhairyaṁ – courage, buddhiḥ – intelligence/know-how, śaktiḥ – resources, parākramaḥ – perseverance amidst obstacles. ṣaḍete – these six, yatra vartante – in whom they exist, tatra – there, devaḥ – God, sahāyakṛt – help
The śloka (verse) means, wherever there are the six qualities of proper adequate and well-directed effort, enthusiasm, courage, intelligence, resources, perseverance, there the Gods help.
Effort, put forth enthusiastically (without apathy, lethargy, pessimism and a sense of resignation), with courage and conviction (without being timid, faint-hearted and meek), intelligently and prudently (without being rash and foolish), with proper resources in place (without being awkward, inadequate, unskillful), persistently and unremittingly (without being defeated, depressed, discouraged and disheartened) is a prerequisite for success.
But this is all good and any decent modern day management book will tell you all this. It is the second part of the śloka that holds the key to the foresight of the ṛṣis. It says “Where all these 6 qualities exist, there God will help”. The question that naturally comes to the intelligent existential realists that we have been educated to become, is, why do we need God’s help if we have all these 6 factors in our favor? Do we not see in real life that despite these 6 factors in one’s favor, the results are not always true to one’s expectations and efforts? There is always an unknown factor that seems to influence the results, and as our own experiences vouchsafe. Some call it the God Factor, some call it Luck, some call it Karma, and some others call it Nature. Whatever you call it, it is undeniable that the results are not directly proportional to our efforts. Those who are historically regarded as successful have admitted, more often than not, that they did not see themselves to have been as successful as things have turned out to be; so is the case with those who were colossal failures.
The greatness of the ṛṣis is that they have factored the unknown and controlled it through prayer; and that’s what makes them stand apart from the modern day management Gurus.
This statement that there is always an unknown factor that influences the results, and that it can be controlled by prayer, opens up an array of questions. What is this unknown, if there is? How can Prayer to God control it? Who is God? Is It He or She? Where does He reside? How did He “become” all powerful? Did He create this world? If so, out of what material did he create this world? What qualifies to be called a creation? Where from He got the knowledge to create the world? What is my relationship with this God? So on and so forth.
These are questions that set the tone for the series of blogs which I am going to publish; and we will deal with each of them as we go by. In the meantime, those who read this, if you have any thoughts about these questions, please feel free to write to me. You will see how interesting it is to even think about these questions, but only when you sit down to write about them; and I want “your thoughts” and not “quotes” from someone else.
For example, a common question that an “Intelligent” person asks about Prayer is, why should we “flatter” God with prayer so that he may condescendingly bestow his benevolence on us? My counter question to you would be “who do you think can really feel flattered?” The answer to this question will define what your understanding of God is; and be prepared to be challenged on your understanding.
My last line – think of the most successful person whom you have known – take some time and think and write it down – now see if he has been the most successful from all perspectives; for example, as a Business Man, a Leader in the Society, a person with uncompromising Morals and Values, a Husband, a Son, a Brother, a Citizen, an Environmentally Conscious Person, and Contributor. Did your person stand the test of success from all perspectives? I doubt. Chances are that the person would have been “successful” on a few counts; and found wanting on most others. Do you think we need to redefine “success”.
I can be reached on email@example.com
Welcome Shukaji – looking forward to your blogs!
Whatever I want to do, whatever I want to achieve, whatever goals I have,
whether that goal be just going to the grocery store, or something “higher” or
more involved, such as writing a book or starting a business….
ALL I can do is to act in such a way as to bring these things about. But
I have no control whatsoever re the final outcome. I simply do not. There
are at least a million situatations that can arise to prevent my reaching a
goal. That just is not in my hands. ALL I can do is the “doing”….it’s clear
to me that outcomes/goals are “hit and miss”….sometimes things work out
exactly as I want and expect. That’s fine. Other times they don’t. Thats fine,
too. I may be irritated dissapointed, a little upset in “failed” goals, but that’s very
short-lived. And I can live with that. I have no need to reach a point where I
never feel dissapointment, irritation etc. The key for me is duration. If I’m upset
or irritated for a few minutes over a failed goal, no big deal. If it were to drag
on and on–then I have a problem! But that hasn’t happened in many years.
Maybe I practice karma yoga. I don’t know, no need to give it a name. I just
think that I’m not the center of the universe and my little goals and wants don’t have to be fulfilled. I’d prefer they are. But they don’t have to be.
I’m not even really the “doer”. Mind does things, body does things, the mind
plans and sees things happening in the “future”…but am I–awareness–really
doing anything at all? I’m sort of seeing what’s going on, and, yes, I’d say “I”
have some attachment to it, otherwise I might not even do the thing at all. But
that attachment doesn’t seem very great (Usually!!! I allow for imperfection,
for a range of feelings/thoughts/…If my partner were to die today, I will be
very upset!!! and I don’t think any amount of “realization” would mitigate that.
I wouldn’t want it to.)
Personally, I don’t believe outcomes can be controlled by prayer. The universe/
god/fate/fortune do what they do…but since I keep it at the level of preference,
I don’t have any life or death need to succeed. I can put effort into endeavors but
outcomes???? Not in my hands. If god/dess/all that is/ has other things in mind,
then I’m pretty sure that’ll trump my plans! No either/or, black/white here….I
have probably learned more from failure than I have from “success”.