Life brings a number of experiences, most of which remain in the conscious or subconscious memory. Whenever you have a new experience, you cannot help relating it to several other thoughts or experiences you have lived. On the surface these experiences are not at all similar, yet it is wonderful to see how one thought leads to another thought; how one experience reminds us of another one.
There is a beautiful story titled ‘Victory of Defeat’ by Hindi writer Sudarshan (1, 2). I would give you only a summary, otherwise this article would become too long.
There was a decoit Khadag Singh, who had a big army of horses, men, and ammunition. Once he came to know that an ascetic named Baba Bharati had a very beautiful and strong horse, which was unparalleled by any of Khadag Singh’s own horses. On seeing the horse himself, Khadag Singh was deeply moved by its beauty; he made up his mind to take possession of that horse. He sat by the roadside under the disguise of a poor sick person. When Baba Bharati came that way, he stopped his horse and offered the sick person to take him to his destination. Once the sick person got on to the horse, he threw off his disguise and gave a loud laughter. As Khadag Singh pulled the reins of the horse to gallop away, Baba Bharati pleaded him :
— I request you not to tell this to anyone; otherwise henceforth nobody would believe a poor or sick person.
Having said this, Baba Bharati went to his house, and Khadag Singh in turn returned to his place. But whole night he was not able to sleep as Baba Bharati’s voice kept reverberating in his mind — ‘don’t tell anybody… nobody would believe..’ When he could bear no more, he got up, and in the silence and darkness of the night, he returned Baba Bharati’s horse.
Baba Bharati’s request was genuine, and had foresight and empathy with fellow human beings — those who are in need of help, and those who offer help.
Friend, every failure does leave a scar on our subconscious.
A relationship fails, maybe in marriage or in love. Friendships break, parents let down their children and so on. Psychologists and counselors suggest us to recover from it and to get over the memories and make a new beginning. A failed relationship does not mean that another new better and healthy one could not be built up. A break of trust by our best friend does not mean that we cannot make new stronger friendships. This is a simple suggestion given time and again by almost everybody, and everything seems so logical here. Even Sri J Krishnamurti stressed the need to erase all memories from the mind and treat each relationship anew, even consider our loved ones as complete strangers and free the relationship from past memories. That means — to put to rest all old wounds, hurts, insults, everything, and make a new beginning.
However correct it be and however logical, it still remains true that each failure does leave a scar on our subconscious. Maybe in the enlightened state we could achieve what Sri Krishnamurti expected us to; but in our present ordinary life, I am full of doubt about its applicability and wisdom. It does open us to all sorts of insecurity and harm, and Sri Krishnamurti does acknowledge it.
When someone cheats you, you try to learn from that lesson. You analyse the whole relationship since the time it was born to the extent your memory permits, and threadbare all the details out of it. You try to figure out where did you go wrong. And with great difficulty, and much mental and emotional agony, you do arrive at a proper (or improper) explanation that you consider as the root cause behind that unpleasant experience. You make a promise not to repeat that mistake for the simple reason that you do not want to go through that pain again. In summary, when you do make a new beginning, a new friendship, you take extra care, keep a step farther from that person and are cautious not to be cheated again. So, you have already started your new friendship with a trust deficit, and this has nothing to do with this new person. And the cycle repeats — again cheating, again analysis, again precaution. This way, step-by-step you keep on moving backwards, away from every new person who approaches you, till the time comes when you are completely far away and detached from the rest of humanity, and have neither the trust nor inclination for building new bonds.
Sudarshan’s story was set in present era, and the basic assumption was that the conscience of the wrongdoer is intact. There is no reason to believe it to be the case always. So the people who cheat their friends, break the trust of their spouse, let their employers or colleagues down, do not for an instant think about the implications to their victims. They are only concerned about their own immediate benefits and gains. Wait a minute. The person who is cheated is not the only victim, has the trust broken, or is let down. In fact, all those people are victims with whom that person enters into new relationship, as this person starts the new relation with doubt in mind and distrust in heart. And not to talk about all the potential relations which could never take place due to lack of trust and confidence.
It does not stop with love and relationship; instead the field where this practice is most prevalent is the workplace. Someone approaches you and asks for help. You tell him how to do certain things. Then the person complains that he could not understand. Then you show him how to do it correctly. He comes after some time and very innocently tells that he is following the same procedure but somehow things don’t seem to work. And thus bit-by-bit, he makes you do all his work — at the sacrifice of your own work and time. At the time of reporting, he gets appreciation for having completed the task on time ‘all on his own’ and you get scolded. It does not stop there. Once you extend your help to someone, he becomes your permanent customer, or rather you become his permanent customer. They suck your blood, feast on your flesh, chew up your bones and come again later just to cross-check whether anything is leftover. In Hindi they say — ‘I offered a finger, he grabbed my hand / throat’.
And what innocent faces they have, how sorrowful their voices are, how genuine their stories seem! In my humble opinion, Prime Minister Modi should take these actors with him on his foreign tours. That way India would get any amount of financial help without having to sign any agreements.
However high we boast of our civilization, culture, thoughts, yoga, ideologies, the basic fact remains that our culture is not one of work. We do not want to work, we treat it as shameful, and the smell of sweat appalls us. Thus, very often you find people who make use of the machine-like people around them ‘who anyhow cannot live without working’. They are also amused and surprised how come this simple approach to success and prosperity did not enter anyone else’s mind.
People would sink to any depths and go to any extremes to get their work done. If you are modest or shy, then you had it. There would be no end to your agony and pain. But I am concerned also about the society and the world, to which the loss would be still greater. See, if you somehow manage to get rid of that parasite, when approached by some other person for help or troubleshooting, you start with a trust-deficit, and take extra care not to be fooled again. And just as it happens in friendships and relationships, in the same way here also, bit-by-bit you turn down requests and refuse to help, even if it were within your ability and capacity. You too would agree that there is at least one talent, one ability that only you possess, through which you could help many others. So if that resource is blocked due to a sucker, the whole society suffers. A very kind and helping person has shut himself off from the world. And now the suckers call that person arrogant, unhelping, rude, proudy.
Still, all teachers and philosophers stress on service to humanity. I disagree. Swami Vivekananda says service of man is service of God. For me, man is man, god is god. I do not mix the two. I do not see the cheats, scoundrels, tyrants as God. Sri Krishnamurti asks us to die to the past; to me, past means wisdom; there reside all the experiences which ensure my security in future.
A question is asked as to why Lord Vaman cheated King Bali. One of the answers given is that wicked people were taking advantage of his generosity and were flourishing under his kingdom (3). It implies that you are free to help and serve others, yet at the same time make sure that nobody takes advantage of your kindness and generosity. Let nobody interpret your kindness as a sign of weakness. You are born with extraordinary talents and abilities, all of which are divine attributes. God wants to help the world through you. Don’t shut yourself off and deprive the world of your love and service simply because of some sucker. It is wisdom not to make wrong decisions and action. Identify suckers when they approach you. There is no harm in turning them away. You need not worry or feel guilty. They would find someone else to feed them. Definitely. That is their talent!
Bhagwadgita identifies three types of service and tells that the noblest of its various forms is the one which is offered to the appropriate person.
When you are asked to help the world and to show mercy to humanity, then that world and humanity includes you too! You are too precious to yourself and to several others who are genuinely waiting for your help. Remember also that everyone is given only one life, the individual life, with individual aims and talents to achieve them. It would be fine to live someone else’s life only when your own life has been lived in full, and all objectives have been achieved. It does not make any sense to neglect your own life, welfare, objective just to feed the parasites, while they bask in sunlight and play flute. Like everything else in life and in world, work, love, service, friendship too should be done with a cheerful mind, and not under obligation or stress.
It is highly unlikely that in the present age you would find a wrongdoer like Khagad Singh who has the conscience intact. Hence the onus to protect your trust falls on you. Remember that trust is the most precious asset without which all human relationships are hollow. You can repeatedly make new friends and relations, but once a trust is shaken it cannot be restored. Instead of repenting later, and closing the doors to the whole society, why not be more alert and extend your services more judiciously — offering it to people and in occasions which really deserve it?