For a degree in right attitude

We spend a third of our lives in academic pursuits, the initial years being taken away in basic education and the later years in the pursuit of degrees and certificates. Education in itself is important and necessary to get us through this increasingly knowledge intensive world. However the fervor with which we attempt in getting into top –rated colleges with top-rated degrees does not make a whole lot of sense. We run, or are made to run, by our family and society after law, medical, engineering, commerce degrees.

Granted, a good degree from a great college or a great degree from a good college will give you an excellent initial velocity and momentum to your career in the early years. But with time it is not the degree that will come your aid but your attitude towards life. Unfortunately there are no institutions that give a degree in right attitude. There are no institutions that teach us the importance of personal responsibility, of social obligations, the ability to solve life’s problems. Neither are we taught to maintain a constant drive to get things done, the need for patience and consistency and so on. These are essential skills that one needs in life in addition to the medical, engineering or the law degrees.

We are left to fend our lives on our own. A great many people, after the initial exuberance of a wonderful start to their career and lives dies down, tend to meander about completely lost in life. There are others who just potter or drift about in life.

“Life’s journey, not a destination” we have been told a million times. What has been left unsaid is that this journey can be to new territory, or simply in plain circles. It is what we make of it.

If we don’t have the right attitude to life we will not navigate our way in life properly. Some of us will tend to the same mechanical things ad-nauseum without getting nauseated. Others will tend to buffeted by the vagaries of fortune. Still others will be cowed down under their responsibilities and problems.

In my opinion “success in life lies is in the eyes of the beholder”. Life is a marathon and we need to have the right attitude in dealing with it. We should not shy away from problems. Rather we should face it head-on. We need to become expert problem solvers. We must sow seeds for our future. We must be grateful for life itself and what it has offered us. We must live every moment.

We must use the creativity of imagination, the strength of courage, the power of determination and the wisdom of patience to sculpt our lives as we live them.

Life is never a race though it is often mentioned as one. In life, you never need to get anywhere. Life is all about paving your own path in time.

You are the sculptor and you sculpt yourself!

A healthy and a right attitude can come handy at any stage in life. This does not just apply each one of us but also to our children.

We should spend more time educating our children about true values like courage, will-power, consistency and drive while they pursue their college degrees. This will take them farther in their lives.

The purpose of life is constant renewal

As we progress through life we accumulate various unique experiences. From our individual experiences we form opinions, judgments and biases. From our biases we start to build our belief systems. Based on our belief system we start to act one way or the other.

For e.g. our belief system may result in our finding fault with our friend or our relative. We have our own set of beliefs of what is right and what is wrong. We think a person should have acted in some particular way. When we find them behaving in a different way then we begin to find fault with them. However the person so acting is doing so based on his/her belief on what on what the correct response should be.

Hence in this world all of us carry within ourselves our own individual belief systems which are usually the result of a lot of confusion and strife in this world.

Our primary purpose in life is to reflect deeply on own belief system and constantly try to refine our view of the world. Most of the time, many of us just carry on with our own ideas of how things should be. We rarely ever try to realign our belief systems. We just continue to stick to our views rigidly which we formed based on our experiences in this world.

Every now and then we need to take stock of our beliefs and our value system. One way to do this is to read the scriptures or to read or listen to the masters. We then will have to reflect on the true meaning behind the words. For e.g. the verse from the Gita “do your duty without any attachment and dedicate the fruits to God” can mean different things to different people. For some it can mean that one has to go to office and stomach all sorts of indignities heaped on one in official life. To a housewife it could mean “being a good mother and wife”. But the more we think about this we realize that there are a million different shades to the above statement. It could imply doing our duty as a son, father, husband, friend, colleague, worker, boss to being a good Samaritan a good citizen and so on. Similarly the biblical saying “if anyone smites thee on one check, show him the other” could again mean many things from quietly accepting ill-treatment, to changing another through magnanimity or to repay with love, acts of violence.

In any case, we need to reflect and refine our beliefs. This will take time. We should not persist in stagnating in our rigid views. We have to constantly refine our personal views of the world. This is imperative in life.

Frozen thoughts – Part 1

My random thoughts on various things …

Past imperfect? present tense…future indefinite.

Learn to live. Live to learn.

The map for your future lies in your past.

We are all wearing colored glasses. That is why we never see eye to eye on anything.

Why is that when your right hand is doing something you have take something from your right pocket.

Temper your temper.

Dive deep into the oceans of the past. Pearls of wisdom are bound to be buried in the sands of time.

The present always gives us a blank check. Write yourself a handsome amount.

The world is full of wise people. Children.

The Tao of Human Behavior

Are there fundamental principles or laws that govern human behavior? If there are what would they be? In my opinion right human behavior should be based on sound values of character which I state as “The Tao of Human Behavior”.

Tao originated in Chinese philosophy and can be loosely defined as “the way”, ‘doctrine” or principle. Clearly there are certain ways that enable one to lead a more full life.

The essence of right behavior can be captured in the following 3 laws

The Law of Immutable Values: This law requires that human action be based on sound principles of integrity, kindness, compassion, tolerance and humility.  This law requires that all human action be based on above values. Action based on values will ensure good providence or karma and will ensure enduring happiness.

The Law of Greatest Good: This law ensures that in any given situation when there is conflict among the immutable values as specified in Law 1, the value that provides the greatest good will be chosen among others. This law implies that, in real life, there will be delicate situations where there will be conflict of principles for e.g. there could be a situation where there is a conflict of honesty versus kindness or another where there is a conflict of tolerance versus correctness. In these situations when there is conflict among several values, the course of action taken should be based on ensuring that the act provides the greatest good for the longest time.

The Law of Greatest Good to Greatest Number (dharma): Implicit in this law is  that society takes precedence over the self in deciding action. Also this law requires that action taken must be such that it provides the greatest good to the greatest number. This law clearly places the world at large above the individual. Action based on this law will be selfless. However, sometimes the path taken can never make everybody happy. So this law requires that action should be based on providing the greatest benefit to the largest number by choosing an appropriate action based the second law.

These laws are based on good human behavior and sound conduct and have proven value and are the essence of right action passed to us through the ages.

If all human action is based on the above 3 laws, human society at large can be peaceful.

Virtue – Defying definition

Virtue denotes moral excellence according to the dictionary meaning. But can virtue be defined? We normally consider acts of honesty, kindness, humility, compassion as virtue. But on closer observation we find that virtues cannot be so easily defined.

In fact nothing is more nebulous than virtue. Every act that we perform cannot be viewed in isolation. We need to take a holistic view of the act – the situation, the circumstances, the cause and the consequences of the act before classifying the act as being morally excellent or not.

A naive definition of truth is generally understood to be a simple statement of a fact. This is what we as kids learn. However as we grow older we learn that sometimes we need tact rather than direct statement of facts – hence we sugar coat the truth. Other times we may have to tell a white lie where we withhold a certain part of the fact when we know that mere telling of the fact can cause greater harm than good. This brings to mind the anecdote in which a sage on being asked by bandits with murderous intentions whether he saw a man flee in a particular direction simply states the fact, resulting in the man being caught and killed. The sage could have told a white lie in this situation. In these situations truth which is pure and the highest virtue cannot be the simple statement of fact.

Another situation that can be considered is when a corporate needs to retrench a part of the workforce. For the employees affected by this move it does appear cruel. But in the eyes of the CEO such a move is necessary for long term health of the organization. In these situations again virtue cannot be easily defined. On the one hand it resulted in people losing jobs and earning capacity at least temporarily, while on the other hand it prevents further decay in the organization.

Was Robin Hood, who stole from the rich, to give to the poor justified in his act? While it may appear that Robin Hood was stealing on the other hand he was using the stolen wealth to help the poor. With this view can virtue be defined as an act in which the ends are noble, though the means are not? Or does virtue necessitate that both the means and the ends be morally justifiable.

The reality is virtue is relative in many ways and really needs to be viewed in totality. We can think of virtue as any act that provides the greatest good for the greatest number or the greatest good for the greatest time. In many ways the Hindu concept of dharma is closest to this view.

In fact at the highest realm of virtue, one virtue is really indistinguishable from another, Hence if we look at virtue as an act that produces the most beneficial consequence then truth, kindness, non-violence and compassion all merge together becoming virtually distinguishable.

Hence virtue at the highest level cannot be easily defined and is in reality an amalgam of many virtues.