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Nelson Mandela -- The End of an Era

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This past week we have seen the end of an era in the form of Nelson Mandela's death. The significance of his life is not just political. Of course, politically, it is of great significance to that nation, but as a man, we have seen very few like that in the last century. Even India's freedom struggle was incubated in South Africa. It was a certain affront to Mahatma Gandhi's dignity which the apartheid regime delivered, which ignited India's freedom movement in a big way. It is unfortunate that injustice, subjugation and many levels of cruelty generate wonderful men. We have to find a way to generate such men when there is no strife, subjugation or injustice. We should incubate such men in joy and in celebration. Societies have largely failed to do that because it is pain that becomes the most profound experience of most human life, not joy, love or ecstasy. It is the profoundness of that experience which spawns men of rare qualities -- of incredible strength and balance.

The hallmark of Nelson Mandela is that in spite of going through unspeakable levels of cruelty and injustice, he did not become bitter and hateful. He still lived laughing and joyfully, not resentfully. It takes a certain quality for a man to do that. People remember the small things that happen to them forever and are resentful for their whole lives -- not things imparted by some cruel regime, but small things that parents did to them.

The end of Nelson Mandela's life must be a reminder for every one of us that you should not stand in a line of resentful people. You should stand alone in true freedom. Freedom does not come because of political or economic processes. Freedom comes when nobody can incite an unnecessary quality in you, no matter what they do.

On a certain day, a drill sergeant in the army was in a particularly bad mood, so he was putting the soldiers through the works with heavy bags to carry. He made them run all over the place in the hot sun. The soldiers were tottering on their legs, running out of steam. One particular soldier's face was expressing everything that he was feeling for the sergeant. The sergeant went up to him, put his face right in front of the soldier's face and said, "I'm sure when I'm dead, you will want to urinate on my grave." The soldier very calmly replied "Sir, this is one thing I have decided -- when I leave the army, I will never stand in another line."

Nelson Mandela's eventful life has come to an end. It is for us to see that many more men like that are spawned on the planet -- not necessarily in the kind of situations in which he was molded. A spiritual process means just that -- the outside situations need not drive you, the outside situations do not mold you. You do not have to be whipped by the world to be at your best - you are willing to whip yourself to be at your best. When it is self-driven, we call it spiritual; when it is driven by somebody, it becomes slavery.

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