Many spiritual paths advocate (and rightly so) that desire is the root cause of most of our so called problems in life. In order to take in our stride all that Life has to offer and still carry on, it seems complete acceptance is the only way. The question which then most of us face is that when complete acceptance is to be practiced whether there is any place for a reaction at all?
It is necessary to understand that while on one hand, everyone will have to pursue an outcome or goal, on the other Nature too has ordained some reactions. These reactions become essential to impel us to act. However, many times the reactions become pure mental gymnastics which serve little purpose for the sake of action. Sometimes, even emotion led reactions become justified as they cause us to change our pattern of thinking. In order to understand the apparent contradiction between acceptance and reaction a few examples would help.
Let me share my own experience. Few years ago, I had some stomach ailment and became stressed. I tried all kinds of treatment and pursued different doctors. I was under severe mental stress and was almost certain that something was seriously wrong. Neither was any physical solution found nor did I have peace of mind. I regained my composure and my health improved only after I started meditating. When I observed (not analyzed) myself later, it became clear that all the fretting and fuming and the anxiety did not help me solve the problem but the moment I gave up worrying, I surrendered to the situation and felt better even though the health only gradually improved ! The other way of looking at this could be that if I had not undergone that mental torture, I would not have been compelled to go inward to seek solace so the reactions even though unpleasant did serve a larger and greater purpose!
The reverse example happened two years later. I suffered a fairly major illness and doctors were anxious about any lasting / permanent damage. But I was relaxed and calm throughout and while all effort was being made through medication, tests etc. I was at peace with the situation and events. My only explanation for this change in state was that due to a relative better acceptance of what ‘is' (had happened) there was less mental perturbation while effort was not reduced.
The above examples show that even an unpleasant reaction may have its place in the larger scheme of things but once a positive change takes place and the process of evolution starts, then effort need not cease but a calmer mental state can be enjoyed. The habit of reactions is such that even without being directly involved, many of us will keep feeling strong emotions and imagine events. These will sometimes be an impediment to action or spur us on to quicker action as the case may be. This will vary of course with each person's temperament.
Let me cite two more instances. Once, my driver was parking the car near a temple when we saw a three-wheeler rickshaw and an autorickshaw heading for a collision due to brake failure. I was horrified and in those few seconds my mind was filled with visions of blood, injury, pain etc. My driver uttered “excellent accident, head to head” in Tamil. When the accident happened, my driver was the first to help while due to my over-reaction, I followed reluctantly. An opposite example refers to an incident in the U.K. A senior employee of our company, I was given to understand, was assaulted by a crazy taxi driver. Even when he ran into a nearby restaurant, the diners inside carried on eating despite having watched the altercation. We could say their lack of reaction was so total that they accepted an assault in which our employee was bleeding as something they need not react to at all! (The reality is most people would leave such matters to the law enforcement authorities in the West).
The above examples show that sometimes reactions seem to serve a purpose. However, by not using those reactions to pursue an action we do not gain anything by just mentally thinking. Once we act or shun away from action in a particular set of circumstances, then we have to accept the consequences (of either action or inaction) rather than try and justify to ourselves or others with mental reasons.
When the ‘I' tries to take ownership of that action (or lack of action) and the consequences, we have to learn to refuse to identify either or else we cannot be at peace with either ourselves or others. The ideal state would be that each action is done with calmness and complete acceptance, but there may be times when, what I would term as ‘sanctioned reactions', would help in changing our life itself.
The next question which would then arise is how do we know which are sanctioned and which reactions are not? The real Truth is that nobody can know until after an event or efflux of time that the outcome of a reaction led to great positive change. Therefore, to not make a complex subject more complicated, it is enough if we understand that we should not worry about any past event or action except to learn and avoid repetition of what we may have felt was a mistake made by us. We can instead surrender both action and reaction to Him and accept the final outcome as the best for then while still trying to overcome or achieve a different outcome in the future by channelling our efforts better.
(To be continued)
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(The writer is the Joint Managing Director of TVS & Sons Ltd., and MD, TVS Logistics)