Some from high action through base fear refrain;
The path is difficult, the way not plain.
Others more noble to begin, are stayed
By a few failures. Great spirits undismayed
Abandon never what once to do they swore.
Baffled beaten back, they spring once more,
Buffeted and borne down, rise up again
(Nitishatakam of Bhartrihari, verse 26)
As every conscientious Hindu knows, there are some parts of our history that we can look upon with pride and others with shame. The question is; a few centuries from now, if you had to look back objectively upon the way you are living your life how would you deserve to be judged by a future generation?
We look with scorn or shame on those people who tried to look after their own petty self-interest while the masses suffered; people who tried to live comfortably, while ignoring the injustice and hardships around them, collaborating directly or indirectly with injustice. We look back with admiration upon anyone who tried to stand up and make a difference in whatever way, be it through the force of arms, through social improvements or in reinvigorating Hindu dharma among the masses.
With our lives, we’re creating the history of the future. Whether we decide to do something outstanding or alternatively just to live a routine comfortable life, each one of us forms part of the story of today’s world – and this is the history of tomorrow.
Just like we look back upon history and have an opportunity to evaluate the actions of persons in the past; Hindus in a few centuries time may do the same. How do we deserve to be judged?
A lot of us know about the problems around us, and know that something needs to be done about them. However most of us spend our time making sure that we and our families have material comfort, and trying to create and enjoy a comfortable life. It is another story that the pursuit of such a life in rarely fulfilled because troubles of some sort will always be present.
We are aware of the suffering in the world. We are aware of the problems facing Hindus and Hinduism. We wish that these would get solved. But very few of us are willing to actually spend their time and efforts (or even their money) in making a difference. We try to remain oblivious, pursuing the elusive life of comfort.
Don’t get me wrong – a person cannot be criticised for wanting material comfort for themselves and their families. This is a valid goal of life in Hindu dharma – but it cannot be the only goal of a life well lived. Deep down we know there are other equally important dimensions to life that we are not making time for.
Many of us hope deep down that one day in the future we will find time for these other dimensions of life, but in reality most of us end up becoming irreversibly changed by the way we live on a day to day basis.
We probably do not realise it, but we are living the kind of lives that we ourselves look back upon with scorn, and at some day in the future most of us will wish we done something greater or more enduring with some of our time.
But it’s never too late. If we could just spend a portion of our energy, efficiency and time serving a greater cause than ourselves, we could look back happily upon our lives. I won’t hazard to tell any of you exactly what you should be doing as there is no “one size fits all”.
I certainly won’t tell you to totally abandon the type of life you have been pursuing; it is “artha” which is still important as part of a balanced existence. Instead reflecting upon the problems around use, let us individually choose a way in which we can make a meaningful difference. If enough of us resolve to do this, our efforts will gain momentum. It will not always be easy going against the currents around us. It may be arduous at times. But you will be able to look back with satisfactions at having served dharma.