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