“Once the game is over, both the king and the pawn go back in the same box”
– Italian proverb
Aurangzeb (1618-1707), the great Indian conqueror was at his time the most powerful and richest man on this planet. Yet the last twenty five years of his life was a colossal tragedy with his entire treasury being spent in wars that were inconclusive. He couldn’t defeat the resilient Marathas and finally at the age of eighty nine, he lay weak and helpless. Historian Stanley Wolpert reveals Aurangzeb’s lamentation before his death as he lay on the arms of his son Azam, “I came alone and I go as a stranger. I do not know who I am nor what I have been doing”. The dying old man left behind an empire that collapsed like a pack of cards, and his legacy wiped out in utter contempt of his herculean achievements.
There are two forces that control us in this world. The first one we can’t avoid, the second we could.
The first force is called TIME
Each second the wax of the candle melts; the hair on the head or the nails on the finger are growing, yet we don’t see it happening, until one moment when we realize we need a haircut or the nails need to be trimmed.
Whoever we are and whatever we do, Time is the greatest equalizer. The mighty and powerful have been humbled by this indefatigable energy.
The second is ILLUSION
Although we are controlled each moment, and inching closer to death, we tend to think I can amass a fortune, destroy my enemies and be happy forever. Despite repeated realizations on how we are tiny and humble, the desire to be a controller and enjoyer is deep rooted.
All of us are trapped by time; ironically, as time strips us of all our possessions and positions, we tend to hold on to the temporariness of this world.
This illusion is the real scourge of humans and the cause of unlimited suffering.
Yet we could chose to get out of this vicious trap of illusion.
Freedom from illusion
A person suffering from bowel irregularities caused by milk needs to take curd to fix the problem. But if he chooses to consume more milk instead, the problem only aggravates. Similarly time and illusion bind the living entity to innumerable sufferings of this world. Yet by choosing to hold on to our conceptions of being the ‘greatest’, the ‘controller’ and ‘enjoyer’ we worsen our diseased condition.
Lord Krishna exposes this mindset in the Bhagavad Gita (3.27)
“The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the material nature.”
Although this illusion is deep and all pervading, we can seek relief by taking shelter of God.
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it” (Bhagavad Gita 7.14)
Constantly remembering Krishna, God and our fragile position, we could connect to the Lord through the chanting of His Holy Names. The pure and transcendental names relieve us from the diseased mentality of being the controller.
Holy Names also help us develop a tangible relationship with God. And this relationship nourishes the soul far beyond the fleeting pleasures provided by controlling people and things of this world.
Then when it’s time to leave this world behind, we are happy and eager to reunite with the Lord. The American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne succinctly echoes Aurangzeb’s plight, “Time flies over us but leaves its shadow behind”
Let Aurangzeb’s tragedy teach us this sacred lesson of giving up the consciousness of being a controller, and making the happy choice to be a humble servant.