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Is philosophy better than being practical? – Part 1

“Keep your eyes on the stars but remember to keep your feet on the ground.”

–    Theodore Roosevelt (President of the USA during the early twentieth century)

“Oh, the class was so practical,” complimented a friend after I offered eight tips to deal with the mind. “The acronyms made it easier to remember,” he said exuberantly. A few others also thanked me, wobbling their heads, “the jokes were so funny.”

Seventy-five of us were on a pilgrimage to Sri Lanka, visiting the places mentioned in the Indian classic Sri Ramayana. I felt happy that my discourse was valued.

However, the next morning, I was in for a surprise.

I narrated a section from the War episode between Ram and Ravana’s armies and saw my appreciative friends, a little distracted. Some of them even struggled to stay awake in the class- they dozed and plunged forward on their seats. I consoled myself and felt sorry for them, “Oh poor things, they already must have heard Ramayana a thousand times before.”

As I hurried to my room after the talk, feeling discouraged at the lacklustre response, a different group of people came up and thanked me for a ‘nourishing’ sermon on the sacred compositions. “It was beautiful,” one of them said, “The Lord’s pastimes bathe our consciousness with spiritual nectar.”

“But, I have already spoken these so many times,” I said to them, “and you’ve heard Ramayana since your childhood.”

“Yeah,” they beamed, “All the same, it was so nice to hear again.”

That evening I realized I had catered to two different needs during my lectures- the realistic or useful skills that had many takers; and spiritual nutrition that is abstract and often intangible.

There’s more to life than ‘being Practical.’

When we hear or study ancient stories of God and His devotees, a question crops up in the head: How is this relevant in my life? How do I apply these teachings to my day-to-day challenges?

To be continued…

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