Celebrating Differences in Life

June 18, 2007

by Latha Vidyaranya

While reading an old post here, the very title A son need not be like his father made me wonder why we are all so bent upon finding the parent in the child always. Why do we expect the son to be like father and the daughter to be like mother?! Why do we not allow the son to be the son himself and daughter to be the daughter herself?? At one point we all say ‘variety is the spice of life’ and at other times we do not want to see variety but expect everybody to conform to certain ‘standards’ that society has defined. Anybody not conforming to these standards are shunned and not accepted easily. Instead, if we find variations why not we celebrate the differences?

Perhaps this is due to the fact that we all desire immortality in some way or the other. If a doctor’s son/daughter becomes a doctor, the father feels a pride in perpetuating his profession through his son/daughter thus preserving himself through his profession to posterity, amounting to a degree of immortality. He is going to outlive himself through his child! Same may be the reason why people hanker after constructing houses or hoarding jewellery. When their children live in those houses after them, they would still continue to live through those houses or when the daughter wears a mother’s jewellery, mother’s memories are kept intact thus immortalizing the person!

When this is the state we are in, we can imagine how difficult it is to de-identify oneself from this body-mind-intellect complex – as directed in our spiritual texts, Ashtavakra being one of them. When people are scared of retiring from a job because of losing so many of their identities in the form of power, designation, their earnings, their name and fame, can ordinary mortal be expected to drop his/her identity from body, from mind and from their highly placed intellect?! It requires guts to pursue the path of spirituality. That’s why it is said in our Upanishads – “cowards can not attain aatma” or “naayamaatmaa balahiinena labhyah”.

The line Adi Sankara in his ‘Viveka Choodamani’ says that “the body should be shunned as one would a disgusting object”, reminded me of a funny observation that I had made recently. In Malleshwaram, there is a Sringeri Shankaramutt where we were taught the tenets of advaita philosophy that constantly used to remind us, “you are not your body” and so on. And as we finished our classes and used to come out of the compound, we used to encounter a jarring display board of a body fitness and beautifying clinic right opposite the mutt that used to entice people by telling them “you are your body. Beautify it”! What a paradox!

The sentence, “There is only a thin dividing line between the attitude of escapism and acceptance” made me wonder how so many of us take the easy route of saying that something is “my karma and hence I have to bear it”, instead of putting sincere effort to alleviate the difficult situation! Whenever we feel lazy to put in the “purusha prayatna”, we simply attribute the negative result to our fate and keep quiet! And there is always a big debate going on about the supremacy of “Fate versus Free Will”. Here once again I am reminded of the words full of wisdom from our Poojya Swamiji Sri Sri Chandrashekhara Bharathi, the 34th Pontiff of Sringeri Shankaramutt, Sringeri. He once said that Fate is nothing but the outcome of the free will that we ourselves had once exercised earlier. Hence to overcome the Fate, we just have to exercise our free will once again now with an intensified force. He gives a beautiful analogy of our trying to pull out a hard hit nail from the wall. When the nail does not come out inspite of our trying repeatedly, we just drop our effort saying that it is my fate and accept the failure. Instead of giving up our effort, if only I can remember that it was I who had driven the nail inside the wall with many a hard hits, then I will realize that it now requires from me much more intensified effort to pull the nail out of the wall. I am bound to succeed!

Similar to the words in Ashtavakra Geetha, in Viveka Choodamani also Sri Shankaracharya says “Mana Eeva Kaaranah Manushyaanaam Bandha Mokshayoh”. It is our mind which either makes us bound or makes us free. I have realized the truth of this sentence all the more now that I am in the profession of Psychological Counselling. Most of the problems that our clients come up with are self-created or self-contributed. But we seldom realize the truth of it, because we find it so easy to shift the blame on someone else for all our problems. Once we shift the blame, we falsely believe that we can shirk from the responsibility of setting the problem right! And as counsellors, it falls upon us to help them develop an insight into their problems thus helping them to discover a new perspective to the whole issue. And once acceptance dawns we find it so much easier to pave the way to resolve the issue.

Also read:
Happy Father’s Day

(Latha Vidyaranya is a Special Educator and Counsellor and has founded ‘Empower Counselling Centre’ in Malleswaram, Bangalore.)

10 Responses to “Celebrating Differences in Life”

  1. Very well written… and I particularly agree with your point about trying to immortalize ourselves by perpetuating professions or character traits. That “You are your body” thing was funny! 🙂

  2. An article of different theme for a change. Welcome this!!

    The point that ‘purusha prayathna’ should be used to overcome ones obstacles is a very postitive take away.

    Personally these are good,correct and valid things but have seen many instances despite good ‘purusha and sthree’ prayathnas too have failed to yeild results despite many many different techniques after having accepted the fact that one can overcome issue by help. So, these are issues which can be considered as karma.

    A good and simple example is of controlling ones blood pressure, despite diet, medicines of allopathy, ayurveda,homeopathy,unani, many vraths, doctors,hakims too will not suffice – then the english doctor attirbutes this to our genetic makeup and conclude which i can equate to the theory of karma!!!

  3. latha vidyaranya Says:

    yes, we can conclude that something is becoz of our karma and just accept it as fate only after going all out and taking all measures available and not leaving any stones unturned to set things right. but there are people who are so laid back that they make absolutely no attempt to alleviate the problem and just escape from the problem saying it is their ‘karma’ and hence they do not want to do anything about it. for such people the ‘nail in the wall’ analogy can be explained.

    since these are the days of female supremacy, perhaps when purusha prayatnas fail, stree prayatnas can help ! :))))

  4. neel3 Says:

    very well written ma’am!!
    ..why not celebrate differences? this thinking should develop in all parents and teachers -only then can we really see our children as individuals and not mere ‘reprints’

  5. G.C.Shashidhar Says:

    Madam Latha Vidyaranya ,

    I read a post Celebrating Differences in Life from Madam Latha Vidyaranya posted on 18th June, 2007.

    On reading that post a few thoughts came to my mind. I am just keeping them on the stage for display.

    Regarding the varieties around us:
    I remember a HINDI poem where a phrase is found : Vividhata Me Ekata. It is not wrong if we find variety around us. The very Nature exhibits variety. It is not objectionable as long as one lives within the frame work of Dharma and yet have variety. Sri Purandharadasaru has sung a song, his own composition: rAgi tandIrya bhikshake rAgi yOgya rAgi BOgyarAgi. Further he says “reetiya bALanu bALuvarAgi nIti mArgadali KyAtharAgi…….”. The wrong need not be felt if a doctor father expects his child to become a doctor. However, at the same time, that father should not force his child on that issue. He can always guide him. Many children need the guidance. They may not have Lokaanubhava. And he should not get hurt if his child refuses to listen to him in that regard. The doctor father always may not feel a pride in making his son also a doctor. He would have aquired a lot of knowledge in many forms in the field which he wants to pass on to his own child. Again, I say, it can not be done by force. Rather he can pass it on to some other deserved child.

    Even in the spiritual domain there are many paths to follow and yet achieve the same goal. Every body need not follow the same path. One can choose the path based on his Samskara. Sri Ramakrishna says : eshtu matagaLO ashtu paThagaLu. Though he realized God in the form of Kali, he did not force others to take the mantra of Kali only. Depending on the Samskaras of the devotees he used to initiate them with appropriate mantra which suits them. He initiated, if I remember correctly, Narendra ( Later Swami Vivekananda ) with Rama mantra though he was believed to be born out of blessings of Lord Vishwanatha. The variety by itself is not wrong. In the pretext of having variety one should not cross the framework of Dharma. One can not give up ethics & principles. There are some things which will be eternally true. We have to follow them. Safeguard them.

    The thought flow may go on like this.

    Regarding the standards set or defined by the society:
    The society has defined certain standards keeping in view the health of the entire soceity. Our own children and grand children are going to live in the same soceity tomarrow. While talking about the standards of soceity Swami Vivekananda’s views about marriages in the post modern days may be recalled. The conventional / traditional marriages may fail here and there and non-traditional marriages may succeed here and there. But the principle should not be destroyed. Great ideas are laid under our marriage system….. The ideas behind our marriage system are the only ideas through which there can be a real civilization. There cannot be anything else. I shall post in detail his views on the marriage system shortly for the benefit of others. The principles and ethics should be adhered to in life. Atleast try to stick on to them. If not try to propagate. What I understand from that is that the great principles layed down under any activity in the life should not be distorted. Those are the result of the past experience of many great people and saints. The soceity may be analogous to a pond from where everybody fetches water, if we add poison or dirt to that pond by way of doing things which are out of the framework of Dharma, by way of setting unhealthy trends or models, tomarrow our own offsprings suffer by consuming the water from the above mentioned pond. The social thinkers and several teachers, already are expressing their deep concern about the way the present day children in the schools where the co-education exists behave even in the middle school level. The schools are becoming the ranga mandira for swechhaa pravritti instead of becoming the Saraswati mandira. All in the pretext of having variety or living a modern life by discarding all the old (but golden principles and ethics, moral values etc.) values as useless. I happen to read a book titled Modern problems and Ancient soulutions. Many of us having modern problems can find solutions in the ancient principles. I heard from a psychiatrist practicing in USA that he was using Ancient soulutions prescribed by our scriptures for the psychological problems ( Modern ) in the USA. Today we see the blind following of western culture. Nothing wrong in following the good ones. Swami Vivekananda wanted the proper blending of west and east. He said something like this: You give us technology & we give you Dharma. You need not convert Indians. It seems somebody asked him “Swami, you say God has taken 10 incarnations to restore the Dharma. Does it not mean that your Dharma has fallen so many times ?” So Swamiji told, “It means there is Dharma in India. Dharma exists there. But here in the west, Dharma is vanished”

    Regarding de-identifying oneself with the body …..

    Here I feel our acquired samskaras play a definite role. The samskara may be acquired in the past births or the current birth. In this birth we do not have much to do with the samskaras of the past births. The sanchita karma can be burnt out by proper karma’s like nama japa, nama sankeertane and frequent sadhu sanga. However as far as prarabdha karma is concerned we only try to get strength to face it and reduce the pain due to prarabdha karma. A saying goes: An action done can not be destroyed until it has borne the fruit and there is no power in the universe which can prevent the reaping of the fruit.

    The capacity of de-identifying oneself with the body can only be earned by certain actions prescribed by the holy souls or shastras, by following yama, niyama, swadhyaya, pravachana, eeshwara pranidana etc. and nama japa, nama sankeertane and frequent sadhu sanga. In one word SADHANE. With sincerity ( Shraddha ). A poet says in a poem: It seems God tells so many things to bhakta. “Yelli arasuve neenu O nanna kinkarane. Ninna baLiyE nAnu vasisiruve”. Finally “Shraddhe elliruvudO alli doreyuve nAnu”

    A few words regarding SADHANE. As far as nama japa, nama sankeertane and frequent sadhu sanga are concerned one can start doing them mechanically also. Of course doing with involvement has greater benefits. Whether we touch the fire with mind or without mind hands are burnt. That is the power of nama japa and nama sankeertane. Exposing ourselves to the holy vibrations often with or without mind helps a lot. Here we may recall the advice of Sri Kuvempu our national poet of Karnataka, to his children. He was a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna and he was initiated by the direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Swami Shivananda. He use to tell his children: We are going to Ramakrishna math on special occasions, not to learn something, but to expose ourselves to the strong and holy vibrations ( Bhava taranga ) generated there.

    Regaridng Fate versus Free Will
    It is very much true that Fate is nothing but the outcome of the free will. God only gives us suggestions and asks us to use our free will and act accordingly. It is his leela. Once we do a karma or action the fate is decided. I have told above some thing about Action and reaping of fruit. For those who have already done the karma, they can be asked to aquire somehow, Atma Shakti to face the karma phala. I remember a shloka : Atma Shaktipradayini namaami bhavataarini. The Universal Mother is the mother of both good and the bad. Sri Sharada Devi, the divine consort of Sri Ramakrishna makes a wonderful consoling statement “I am the mother of virtuous as also the wicked. Whenever you are in distress, just say to yourself ‘I have a Mother’. What a wonderful consolation. A Bengali verse on Mother goes like this: saadhu sajjan janani tumi ma | asaadhu durjan sut tomaar | bahe nirantar antaheena dhaar | tava ananta karuna dhaar|

    I remember a shloka from Sri Durga saptashathi: jnAninAmapi chEtaamsi devi bhagavati hi sA| balaadaakrishya mOhaaya mahaamaayaa prayachchati|. So, when even the jnaani is being forced to do wrong, where are we to go. Such is the power of Maya. So pray Mother who is also Mahaa Maaya to help us. Sri Ramakrishna ( himself was considered as avataara varishthaaya by Swami Vivekananda ) used to tell his devotees how he was praying – Amma jana ninna kuritu EnEnO hELuttAre. nanagondU tiLiyolla. Ninna jnaanavU bEda ajnAnavU nanage bEda. yeradannU nInE ittuko. Nanage kEvala ninna pAdadalli shuddha bhaktiyannu karuNisu. He tells some more. And finally he prays — ninna bhuvanamOhini mAyeyinda nannannu kattihAkAbEda.

    DEvara Dasimayya tells Bhakti is so difficult to practice, it is like double edged knife which cuts in both the direction. A book namely Vachana vEda authored by one Mahendranath Gupta, a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna. This book records in a book the preachings of Sri Ramakrishna, who is described by Swami Vivekananda, as samshaya raakshasa naasha mahastram. So loving was his living, the way of preaching. He says just you considered as your loving father, mother, friend and surrender to him. Once he says you just surrender to bhavati, the rest she will take care. You do not have take any trouble. No need to struggle at all. Some body will come to you and say, do this do that etc. and make you do it. What an encouraging , consoling statement !!!

  6. latha vidyaranya Says:

    Dear sri GC Shashidhar,

    Thank you very much for the kind and elaborate reply in which you have taken pains to quote from so many texts to make us Mandhamaadhikaaris understand the spirit of your letter. You must be a very very patient person and I bow down to you.

    I do agree that the variety should be with in the frame work of dharma and not go breaking it. What I had in mind when I wrote it was the current trend of parents to expect their children to always take the safer and risk-free avenues of Engineering or Medical Courses of study and not allow them to pursue their own dreams of art or music or sculpture or even courses in Hospitality or Hospital management or any other paramedical courses. By societal standards I meant these kind of standards by which our society measures a person or looks down upon the person if he/she does not measure upto what the majority feels is THE path to take. I did not mean the societal norms that are the unwritten laws of a society or a culture that is laid down for the good of everybody. Sometimes even the norms can be broken if it is in the larger interest of a group and not to hurt or stifle somebody’s rights. I agree with the lokaanubhava that elders have, but sometimes they impose their dreams upon the youngsters making it claustrophobic for the youngsters. This elders need to avoid, was my suggestion.

    Regarding the pond where everyone draws water, it is fine as long as the water is fresh. But sometimes in our society the pond starts stagnating and yet nobody dares change the water.

    I agree that some old solutions work wonders for modern ailments. But at the same time for some modern illnesses sometimes modern remedies have to be discovered and we can not stand by the old ones always.

    I agree with you about the different paths laid down by different Gurus according to the eligibility or the vaasanas or innate impressions of past samskaaraas of the disciple that a true guru can easily recognize and lead him/her.

    You have written that “an action done can not be destroyed until it has borne the fruit and there is no power in the universe which can prevent the reaping of the fruit”. True. As you have mentioned naama sankeerthanas/ naama japaas can go a long way in instilling in us that inner strength by which we can gface the perils of this life. And many a times the blow that is bound to fall on us can reduce in its intensity by the Grace of God.

    Yes, no second word about Saadhane and Sat sangha. Your mention of Sri Sharada devi and the thought that “I have a Mother” are truly solace rendering. As Sri Shankaracharya says “ Kuputro Jaayeta, kwachidapi Kumaata na bhavathi” – there can be an evil son, but never an evil mother. A mother will never disown her evil son, but tries her best to transform him into a better human being.

    About Maaya, total surrenderance to that Maayavi can only take us beyond the entanglements of this Maaya. But the tragedy is we do not even realize that we are entrapped in Maaya. We believe it is the truth! And we carry all the burden ourselves and trudge the path cursing our fate. As you have mentioned, why can we not place all our burden at Mother’s feet and surrender to her?! Our Ego, the Aham-kaara and Moha, the Mama-kaara come inbetween us and God. If only I can drop them, how liberating it would be!

    Thank you, sri Shashidhar, for the nice rejoinder.

  7. G.C.Shashidhar Says:

    Madam Lata Vidyaranya,

    Thank you for ur reply. I am happy that I have placed some of my thoughts correctly so that somebody ( you, working as a psychologist, in this case)also finds that it is right.

    Two of your thoughts are not clear to me. Can you kindly explain with some examples. Those two thoughts are placed here below.

    Just out of curiosity I am asking.

    1. But sometimes in our society the pond starts stagnating and yet nobody dares change the water.

    2. For some modern illnesses sometimes modern remedies have to be discovered and we can not stand by the old ones always.

    Can you kindly mention a few of the modern illness that you have found that which need the new remedies.

    According to my understanding, at least as of now, Gita gives the complete solutions for any person, any where in the world even today. It even talks of the kind of food that we should consume. “yuktahara viharasya ….” The sloka goes on like this.

    “Our Ego, the Aham-kaara and Moha, the Mama-kaara come inbetween us and God. If only I can drop them, how liberating it would be! ”

    Regarding our ego it is not that easy to get out of it. That is why, I think, two kinds of egos are talked of. Ripe ego and non-ripe ego. The ripe ego is not all that bad, though that blocks the getting of Moksha. Ripe ego is the one where we say ” I am son of Him, I am His servant etc.

    Thank you,


  8. latha vidyaranya Says:

    1. But sometimes in our society the pond starts stagnating and yet nobody dares change the water.

    In Indian society it has always been the norm that sons live with their parents and take care of them in their old age.
    I do agree that sons (or daughters, in case the parents do not have a male issue) have a duty to take care of their parents in their old age. But many of the marital conflicts that I come across are clearly caused by the over indulgence or interference of the in laws in their children’s married life. In earlier days the young couple were more adjusting and in order not to ‘break the home’ they continued to live with the elders, putting aside many of their own desires and dreams. But now a days, the youngsters are not ready to compromise on their dreams, they would like to have independent living as they have their own style of living that may clash with their elder’s and specially in case of the ‘only son’ he is so entrapped emotionally that he starts feeling guilty of even nursing his dream of independent living. He is caught between his parents and his loving wife and is unable to satisfy either of them. And somehow the ‘living together’ continues and the relationships become extremely strained and fragile.
    In such a case the whole family requires counselling and the elders also need to make space for the youngsters and not breathe over their neck. In most of such cases it is the ‘phobia’ of Indian elders that they may have to relinquish their ‘control’ over their sons and they would ‘lose power’ and would be relegated to the background ! They fail to understand that they would be respected more if only they learn to ‘let go’. And how peaceful it would be for the elders to take up ‘vaanaprasthaashrama’ atleast mentally, as there are no ‘vanaas’ left in these days.

    2. For some modern illnesses sometimes modern remedies have to be discovered and we can not stand by the old ones always.

    I think the above example can serve for this point too.

    And also the case of todays adolescents wanting more and more freedom. I am not saying that adolescents should be given total freedom. But within the framework of the family’s ethics, more flexibility can be shown by the elders. Just because there is so much of media exposure of all kinds, parents need not unduly worry that their sons and daughters will go astray if they do not restrain the youngster’s movements. In many homes even now it is the parents who decide which friendships should be continued and which ones to be cut off! The parents are so paranoidal that every call that the youngster gets, the parents listen to the whole conversation on the parallel telephone line thus making the whole atmosphere claustrophobic for the youngster. And it is at this point that the young son or daughter becomes rebellious and tries to take upperhand over the parents and a big battle ensues. If only the parent understands that they have already instilled the good values into them during their childhood and those values are even now practised by the parents in day to day life, they need not go overboard in controlling the children like despots. Parents require more counselling to reduce their paranoia and calm down so that children will understand their responsibility and not misuse the freedom accorded to them.

    You have written, “Regarding our ego it is not that easy to get out of it. That is why, I think, two kinds of egos are talked of. Ripe ego and non-ripe ego. The ripe ego is not all that bad, though that blocks the getting of Moksha. Ripe ego is the one where we say ” I am son of Him, I am His servant etc.”
    I agree with you about the ripe ego. When I understand that I am only His servant, I realize that I am only a caretaker of my family. God has only delegated His duties to us to take care of His family. But we forget that our children are His, our spouce is also His child, we make them as our own and it is this ownership that deludes us and make us suffer so much. Instead, as a care taker, if I can look after my family with sincere love and care and the detachment of a baby-sitter, be ready to hand over my responsibility to Him any time He asks, how happy can all of us be!


  9. […] above had appeared as part of another post in RK’s blog some time ago. i am posting it again for the sake of my new blog […]

  10. […] above had appeared as part of another post in RK’s blog some time ago. i am posting it again for the sake of my new blog […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: