“But twenty years later when he had ninety nine centuries in his kitty, the hundredth one became elusive. The media was sensational each time he walked to bat, “Will he score his hundredth century this time?” The burden of people’s expectations was heavy and everyone was asking him only about his 100th century. Even his domestic maid servant was curious to know when he’d achieve this feat. He confessed later that no one spoke about the ninety nine centuries he had already scored. They were only concerned with his yet to happen, 100th one. He struggled but finally got it against the Bangladesh team more than a year and half later. Ironically, India lost that match. For a man who scored almost five centuries a year, it took him eighteen months to get his 100th one. That’s called pressure. As a young man, he played freely; he was in love with the game. As he got older, he carried the burden of desires of millions of people. Although handling pressure can be tricky, to his credit, he survived the ordeal, and came out tougher and more realized.
“As young kids we sing, dance and play with abandon. Soon ambition and responsibilities come our way, and somewhere we forget to enjoy life the way we did as children. Where did that innocent celebration of life disappear? What and whose burden are we carrying in our heads and hearts; oh when will that day be mine?”
A huge swirling wave rushed to the shore and its sudden splash on the rocks caused it to jump high and far; it kissed the faces of the group that was now oblivious to everything around them. Venky felt the saltiness of the sea water and he could also sense Aki was emotional.
“I can relate to this so much”, Kishor sighed. “I think even monks could be as miserable as others, carrying some unknown burden”
“We all are victims”, Aki seemed expert in changing his mood. He was now buoyant, and smiled, “The world outside of us takes us away from our true inner self. Like Sachin, we enjoy our spiritual activities during our younger days. But slowly we carry someone else’s burden, not knowing what we really want. We get disconnected from our own selves and soon the very activities that once gave us pleasure choke us just as cricket, the very game that was Sachin’s life and soul was now throttling him.
“Although Sachin is a great example, not many are as lucky. Katy Sexton, even as a three year old child began splashing around in pools and enjoyed swimming. She happily accepted a grueling schedule and at just fifteen years represented her country England in world championships. At twenty two she was a world champion. But soon the pressure to perform better got her. She let that affect her. She beat herself up and fell deeper and deeper. She confessed that after training for years, to fall at the last hurdle was gut wrenching. Her internal battles weakened her and she couldn’t make it into the National team for the Beijing Olympics. She is now out of it and is more determined to help the society; she offers counseling service to 11-25 year olds, helping children enjoy their precious lives.
“How reality is far from what is advertised; the spirit of Olympics is ‘Participation is more important than winning’ but that seems a mere consolation for those who don’t win.
“This is the plight of many monks as well”
“Really?” Shyam seemed surprised, “A sacred monastery could also be beset with this kind of pressure?”
“Not all monks”, Aki clarified, “But for many, initially we like to practice chanting, hearing, worshipping the Lord and studying scriptures and dancing in kirtans happily. Later as we get senior and our ‘performances’ are noticed, we are appreciated. We are expected to perform better. Each word we say, and the classes we speak are noted. We are watched. If we forget the essence and get carried away by what the world expects of us, we’d be unnecessarily burdening ourselves. Then we’d not enjoy the simple and happy spiritual process. The simple and natural ‘batting’ is replaced by a stressful and desperate attempt to perform for others and not for our own purification. It’s a pity when a monk becomes a victim of an image that he creates for himself.”
“Our spiritual practices are not for worldly glory, just as batting for Sachin and swimming for Katy is not primarily for worldly glory but rather it’s a medium of self-expression. It’s to be who you are. But somewhere tragedy strikes; what the activity can give us becomes more important than the true spirit of the act. If Katy had ignored the worldly pressures and continued to swim and exercise because she loves the sport, she’d be happy and maybe even get more of the external success. Our inner life is the real world. The more connected we are to ourselves we live contended and also contribute meaningfully to the world outside of us”
To be continued…