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When Deepak, with his characteristic inquisitiveness, asked me about the things I’ve learned in my life, it got me thinking. As I looked back and hard at the 62 years that I’ve lived, it felt as if everything that happened was pre-ordained and that I was just a participant all along, thrown in with various factors, people and circumstances which ultimately helped shape my life. Many events that were not planned happened successfully and many that were, failed to fructify. I met some friends, influencers and family members whom I did not know earlier; they joined me in my journey and were always a source of direct or indirect support. The outcome of these events laid the foundation for successive ones and life continued to find its course.

Humans have a tendency of analyzing everything that happens in their lives. We fuel our egos by attributing the course of our lives to our own deeds only. It is quite obvious because we were there in every part of it while the other factors kept changing. But we weren’t always there as a doer, at times were mere participants as well. Our analysis though has serious limitations. It is limited by the notion that we should ponder only over those things that directly affect us and not the ones we brushed past by just a whisker. Let me give you a very simple example: Suppose one day you miss a bus you regularly travel on and it meets with an accident. Have you analyzed why your friend in the bus did not miss it as well? Only when the brain is capable of seeing everything, will it realize that every event in this world is driven by an alignment of circumstances, factors and forces and you are merely part of those events which are already predetermined. Nothing happens incidentally or by accident . However, we tend to term these unexpected outcomes as luck, chance, surprise or God’s will.

It would be quite appropriate here to wonder whether we have control over the outcome of the various situations developing around us. It is quite common to see people appropriating successes solely to themselves. Some even dare to own their failures. More often than not, you do have some degree of control by virtue of your designation and the powers vested with you, with which you plan and execute a task. The outcome is still not under your exclusive control. It depends on a number of people, resources, circumstances and factors; both seen and unseen. You as an individual do contribute to a situation and to that extent you can claim your share in the outcome. Even though we cannot completely control the outcome of a situation, what we can control is our response to it. It might sound as a passive and reactive approach, but doesn’t it resonate somewhat with the teachings of Bhagvad Gita, i.e.: Do your duty; do not expect the results because results are not in your control. The response to the outcome however is in your control since it is solely you who is responding. It takes a lot to do so with equanimity and composure. Therefore we should not trivialize the concept of response as something passive or reactive.

In retrospect, I have observed many minor and major occurrences in life that have felt like pre-ordained events over who’s outcome we have no control. It has led me to the firm belief that ‘Everything is happening; we just happen to be there’. And you may very well call it my life’s lesson.

A lot of people with whom I have shared these thoughts, say that if everything is happening the way it is ordained, then why should we work for it at all? And I ask them in return- can you really just wait for things to happen and accept whatever its outcome might be? Sounds simple but it requires a lot of patience and tremendous self-control. It requires you to be a person who is not affected by situations or events and their resulting outcomes. Not easy. Let me explain it in a different way and ask you a question as a counter to the one asked at the beginning of this paragraph. Why does a person act or do something? What drives him to do something? The answer is simple- he has a desire to achieve something. Desire is the head of a fountain- be it a desire arising out of his ego, anger, attachment, greed or pleasure. A mother feeds her child out of attachment- can she choose not to feed? Similarly, it is greed which leads to corruption. We respond to injustice out of anger or ego etc. As long as these five elements (ego, anger, attachment, greed and pleasure) are present in a human being, he’s bound to act. A person just cannot sit idle because he is driven by wishes and desires. Only the one without desires can remain idle, inert, inactive and unaffected. A normal human being will therefore act/react and would try to control the outcome of the situation just like I mentioned earlier. It brings me again to my conviction that ‘Everything is happening; we just happen to be there’. 

I would like to request you to pick up any recent event in your life and weave these thoughts around them. And do let me know if you feel the same way as I do or if you feel otherwise.

Image Credit: Reymark Franke



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