New Year Thoughts - 2

That India celebrates many New Years (Tamil New Year, Ugadi, etc.) itself indicates that the New Year is a relative and not an absolute concept. So we need not be bothered about any particular New Year. Any New Year is all right. The purpose of having a New Year function is to examine what is happening in our lives.

We have got a human life because we paid a big price using a special currency called punyam. Without losing this opportunity let us accomplish the highest. Otherwise life will become mechanical. We have to see whether we are growing or not. We need not be concerned with the rate of growth or the pains of growth. A bamboo shoot may grow at the rate of several cms a day. Other species may grow just a few cms a day. The rate of growth is in-built into the system. We all have our own rates of growth and we must all know our rate of growth. So there is no need to compare ourselves with others. We are not going to develop a complex. We are not going to become jealous. We make sure we do not feel guilty, do not get frustrated and do not develop an inferiority complex.

We will all benefit by God's Grace. Some people say 'Everything is God's Grace'. So they do not take the responsibility for anything. This is very irresponsible. At the same time, we cannot be arrogant - 'I can accomplish anything I want'. Pride goes before a fall. People who occupied high office find themselves in prison. We should accept our role and the role of Iswara also. So we take responsibility for ourselves and seek the grace of the Lord through prayer, visiting temples, etc.

When we pray to the Lord, we must remember some rules. We must not pray for anything and everything but only that which is possible. This is true even though Bhagawan is omnipotent. We know from the Puranas that rakshasas do intense tapas. Iswara appears before them and asks 'What boon do you seek'? There seems to be standard format. The standard wish is 'There should be no death for me'. The standard reply is 'That I cannot give you. Ask for something else'. If Bhagawan cannot fulfill all wishes, how can He be called omnipotent? To understand this, we must know the benefit of omnipotence. Omnipotence is the capacity to do everything that is possible. So if we ask impossible things from the Lord, we will not get it and we will doubt the very efficacy of prayer and may even doubt the existence of God. So when we pray, we must know what to ask for. Then, there will be no room for disappointment. We must not make the mistake of asking for the impossible. What are the impossibilities or wrong prayers?

First impossibility - As long as we live we have to be active, physically and mentally. The body is mentally active. The mind is mentally active. So 'O Lord, save me from responsibilities or activities' is a wrong prayer. If we beget children, we must be ready for all the responsibilities that follow. This includes baby-sitting the grand children. If we do not want to shoulder this burden and run away to an ashram, we will be faced with the responsibilities of an ashram. If we want to escape from this also and become a wandering monk, the entire world becomes our responsibility. So our prayer can never be for rest. We have to be active till we breathe our last. Freeing oneself from activity is impossible. We can pray for freedom from boredom. 'O Lord, let me do all the activity with a cheerful mind. Let me find inspiration in all the activities I do and let me enjoy all the activities I do'.

Second impossibility - The future is never under our control, whether it is our future, the future of our children, the future of the companies we work for or the future of the world. So when we pray 'Let me be successful all the time, let me make profit all the time, let my children be always academically brilliant', indirectly we are seeking the control over the future. Any type of prayer wherein we try to indicate some type of control of the future will fail miserably. What we can do is to contribute to the future. We can be contributors, not controllers. We can be a contributor to the growth of our children, our own well being, the well being of our companies and the well being of our nation. So let us not pray for anything that includes control over the future. When we contribute, let us do with cheerfulness and enthusiasm. Krishna could not prevent the Mahabharatha War, but He was a great contributor. When avatars cannot control the future, what can we mere mortals do? 'O Lord, let me contribute my best. Let me enjoy what I do. Let me have cheerfulness and enthusiasm'.

Third impossibility - The third impossibility is important especially for family people. We must realise that we cannot change others. Even God has failed in this task. Krishna failed in changing Duryodhana. Rama failed in changing Ravana even though He gave him many opportunities. If we try to change other people, we fail miserably. What we can do is to contribute the maximum to the other person's growth.

We always judge other people subjectively. So how do we know our judgement is correct? Just as others require growth, we also require growth. Just as we want others to change, others also want us to change. The result is total disharmony. We can help others, provided the other person wants our help. Just as we can help others, we can also seek help from others. 'O Lord, change others' is a wrong prayer. 'O Lord, let me contribute to others' growth. Let me influence their growth' should be our prayer.

We can influence (not change) others in two ways - directly and indirectly - by our languages (what we speak) and our living and in this we may or may not succeed. Most people don't listen. When we talk to another person, instead of listening, he is probably planning his reply. The reverse is also true. This is called argument. The indirect influence is our living. Our actions may or may not influence others. We can pray 'O Lord, please give me the strength to accommodate others' - Those who are changing for the better, who are changing for the worse and who do not change.

Fourth impossibility - We can never get total satisfaction and security through any setup. Hoping for such a situation is a pipe dream. Even if there is an ideal setup, it will become upset. 'O Lord, let me discover security in myself, whatever be the setup'. Even Bhagawan can complain about the setup. In fact, the most dissatisfied should be Bhagawan. He created the World, created all beings and gave us set of rules called dharma that we are expected to follow. And what do we do? We violate every rule in the book.

To summarize:

'O Lord,

Let me be cheerfully and enthusiastically active. Let me enjoy whatever I do.

Let me contribute to the future; let me not try to control the future.

Let me influence positively through my life and language; let me not try to change others.

Let me have the wisdom to discover satisfaction and security within myself, whatever be the setup '.

If we have such a prayer, Bhagawan will certainly co-operate. Praying thus, let us grow and contribute our best.

| List of Lectures by Swami Paramarthananda |