“Human life is precious; we are blessed with the ability to discover rich inner fulfilment through our activities, and bring joy to the lives of others. An Olympic athlete, a movie star or a cricket player may entertain billion plus viewers in over 200 Nations, but should it be at the cost of one’s own inner harmony. Could an athlete strive for a gold medal or seek to score a century and be joyful even if he fails? Is the gold chase worth losing the precious diamond of human existence?
“That’s profound”, Shyam exclaimed. “Like an expert surgeon, you just dissected the diseased tumor”
“But isn’t it natural to seek glory and appreciation from this world?”Shyam probed further, “I mean I do want to become famous and receive love from this world. Isn’t it unnatural to deny it?”
No one said anything. All eyes were now on Aki.
“The bubbling waves on the surface of a river fizzle out in a moment, but the current underneath is serene and steady”
“I don’t think I quite get it”, said Shyam, “I do feel happy when someone appreciates me and when I am criticized I feel hurt, and angry”
Aki continued, “Life throws up unlimited ‘waves’ of victory, defeat, pleasures and pains. If we identify with the ‘wave happiness’, we’d be terribly disappointed as the bubble bursts. However, if we seek to go deeper in an inner quest for meaning and purpose of life, we’d be steadily flowing to our spiritual destinations, irrespective of all the inevitable ups and downs in life. It’s this anchor that not only gives us strength and shelter during troubled times; it also spreads positivity amongst those who know us. We’d then care less of losing a game, but more of winning the game of life. As the American Olympic champion, Ralph Boston said, “Being the first to cross the finish line makes you a winner in only one phase of life. It’s what you do after you cross the line that really counts.
“My dear Shyam, I agree we all need to feel encouraged. But what if we don’t get it as often as we wish it came our way. Would we stop our pursuits just because no one is appreciating us? On a practical level, an athlete like Katy could translate ‘going deeper’ in life by asking a simple question: what’s the worst that could happen? Nothing really! The burden of expectation is self-imposed; the world doesn’t really care whether you win a medal or not. People are busy with their own tale of woes, and if they do criticize you, it’s often driven by something negative in their own lives, and has nothing to do with your sporting, corporate or academic performance.
“Realizing that her coveted gold medal isn’t going to make a difference to the world could be disappointing to Katy, but it’s also liberating. She could now give more than hundred per cent to explore the sheer beauty of her performance. She’s a great swimmer and she doesn’t need the world to endorse it; come out of the box of world’s opinion about you, and lead a life connecting to the divine. The accolades are fleeting; our aspirations to harmonize with the divinity within are eternal. Seneca, the great Roman dramatist of the first century, philosophised, “the great blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach; but we shut our eyes, and like people in the dark, we fall foul upon the very thing we search for, without finding it.”
Shyam had more to say, “But practically speaking, sometimes I find these things vague. Maybe because I am the youngest in the ashram and haven’t seen life and realized deep things like all you guys”
“No, No”, Aki protested. “Life is simple, and you don’t have to complicate it with deep philosophy”
“But I thought that’s what you did just now. You are talking about all that inner stuff and my basic problem is I can’t get even decent things done in the ashram”
“You are offensive now”, Kishor curtly stopped Shyam. Venky joined in, “I think you are getting excited and crossing the line”
“No, that’s ok”, Aki was reassuring, “I see that you want to understand how one could perform better and more joyfully, whether as an athlete, businessman, house wife or as a parent or even as a monk and not get depressed?, right?”
Shyam nodded, affirming “Yeah, and I am sorry, I got emotional”
“Try the magic of ‘visualization’” Aki smiled at the cricket enthusiasts. Every sports coach teaches his protégés this age old technique. You can try this even off the sporting field”
“I think you’ll need to elaborate”, Kishor said “It’s been years since we played cricket and need help to understand in the non-sports context”
To be continued…