Friday, October 29, 2010

Give to get

A long time ago, when the barter system was prevalent, there was a trade agreement between two persons. One was a dairy farmer and the other had an orchard of apples. They agreed that every week they will exchange five liters of milk with one kilogram of apples. This went on smoothly for a few months.

One day the dairy farmer went to the king with a dispute. He said "I have been noticing that I am getting less than a kilo of apple each week. My trade partner is cheating me by giving me less than what was contracted for." The king sent for the other guy and asked him for his version.

The orchard owner said " I have been noticing a steady dilution in the quality of the milk that is being supplied to me. What used to be thick and creamy is now thin and watery. As I am getting less, I am supplying less."

This situation is not unusual. Times have changed and we now have the monetary system but people's mindsets are still the same. We all want a good bargain. We want to pay less and get more. "Value for money" is how we describe this expectation.

If everyone wants to get and none wants to give, how will trade happen? The same applies to relationships also. Unless we give, we should not expect to get anything. The more we give, the more we love, the better will our relationships be. Without giving, the relationship becomes bitter.

There is also a joy in giving without expectations. People who are generous realise that giving is indeed more joyful than getting. There is an indescribable pleasure in making others happy. When we give selflessly and unconditionally, we are creating positive circles of joy which makes the world a better place to live.

True test of knowledge

One topic that can be endlessly debated on is "what is knowledge?"

Who can be called as knowledgeable? Is it people with strong skill sets? Or is it people who have a string of degrees? Or is it people who have large number of followers and devotees? Is it the consultants / experts who command a huge price? Or is it people with depth of experience in select areas? Or is it people who hold high positions and have huge power bestowed on them?

What is knowledge? Is it the same as intelligence or smartness? Most of us often confuse information or charisma or articulation with knowledge. Real knowledge is something beyond all this. People who strut around with pride on their knowledge often get stuck for words when asked simple questions like "Who am I?". Knowledge should not be confused with ability to make a living or earn wealth.

My own thoughts on this is as follows. A person can be called knowledgeable if she knows her self. She is able to differentiate between her body and her self and likewise with others. She knows the interconnections between different forms of life. She knows how to live and the purpose of her life. She knows where she has come from and where her destination is.

The true test of knowledge is not in the ability to articulate with conviction. A person who is truly knowledgeable can be identified by her conduct. Such a person is always cool, calm, balanced and unperturbed. She is gentle with all and compassionate. She has love for all beings and is always interested in giving rather than getting. She is selfless. She upholds values irrespective of its consequences.

A persons knowledge level is known by her conduct.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Motives matter

Almost every religion & book on values prescribes people to do good acts and think positive. In order to convince people to do good, they talk about the benefits in the form of better relations with people, better environment, a place in heaven etc. This certainly is good as it encourages otherwise negative, lazy or disinterested people to do good work. We see people practicing charity and doing service etc. to others with high enthusiasm and fervour.

The Sanatana Dharma - also known commonly as Hindu religion - recommends that people do good acts without any motive. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that one should practice Karma Yoga or do actions without any motive or desire. The reason for this recommendation is simple - while actions are in our control, results are not. Moreover, if actions are motivated mainly by results, one can see a reversal in enthusiasm if the desired results are not met.

Actions carried out with a selfish motive are also dangerous. Selfishness usually denotes an interest for gaining something for oneself at the cost of others. As long as one is selfish, one tends to become biased and unfair. One justifies this behaviour by various methods and arguments. The other problem with "selfish good acts" is that it stops as soon as the self interest is served.

Motives do matter even if one is doing a good thing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stay focussed

There is a story in the Mahabaratha about Drona, the teacher of all forms of warfare. He was teaching his students on the principles of archery. He called out his first student and asked him to arm the bow and prepare to shoot a distant target in the form of a toy bird. The objective was to hit the birds eye.

To each student, his simple question, before the arrow was released, was "What do you see?". Each student said things like "I see you Sir and my fellow students, I see the sky, the trees, the bird etc." Only Arjuna, who later became a very accomplished and expert archer, said "I see only the birds eye".

The teacher used this as an example with his students to explain the importance of focus. In order to be successful and accomplish ones goals, one has to have the same intensity of Arjuna. When one is distracted by other things, it is easy to miss the target.

Staying focussed is easier said than done especially when the mind is so fickle and there are so many distractions around. Yet, champions have a special ability to de-focus from the distractions and concentrate on the core objective. Imagine a Vishwanathan Anand playing chess or a Sachin Tendulkar batting and you will realise the importance of focus.

One may be playing multiple roles in life or having multiple interests For example, one may be a student and also be a sportsperson & a budding musician. In order to be successful, one has to forget the other interests while pursuing or practicing each of these disciplines. If such a focus is achieved, one can scale great heights.

What does this have to do in a blogspot of values? Even while pursuing values, one has to have the same level of concentration, a single minded purpose and commitment in order to ensure that there are no slip ups in the journey. Being focussed on ones objective and goal is the sure way to be successful in life.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Appreciate & Encourage Values

I had read a story in my childhood which made a deep impact on me. It was about a group of boys playing cricket and accidentally breaking a window in the neighbourhood. While most of the boys ran away and hid themselves, there was one brave and honest boy who stood his ground and admitted his guilt when the house owner came enquiring. The owner was, who was normally an irritable man, was impressed with the boys sense of responsibility and truthfulness that he forgave him. I had resolved, after reading this story, that should a similar situation happen to me I will be like the boy and set an example for others.

Now when I look back I realise that, in this story, both the boy and the house owner are exemplars in different ways. The house owner is also to be lauded for encouraging the boy to live a life of values. It is common place to find people who punish people who confess thereby making them feel that honesty is not the best policy. Rare are those people who rise above the immediate temptations and focus on what is good for the long term.

It is indeed difficult to practice living a life of values in today's world. I read about a person who resolved to speak only the truth for a period of three months. He made enemies, lost friends and even strained his relations with his family by merely being truthful!! Everyone intrinsically understands and acknowledges the need and importance of values. However, people want flexibility in practice especially when their interests are affected.

It is therefore very important to have people who rise above short term needs and who encourage / motivate / appreciate people who practice values. People who live a life of values are usually not successful and walk a lonesome path. They are motivated by an inner urge and commitment. We should strengthen their resolve by appreciating them and overlooking any minor transgressions that they might make.

Do you agree? If yes, do you commit yourself for the same?