A friend put out a blog yesterday; it was a thought-provoking piece in which he talked about how we are 'prisoners of our minds.' There was a particular line in there that stuck out for me in which he said, "No situation that occurs in life is pre-labeled as positive or negative. It is completely our choice as to how we define it." It talked about how too much of a reflection of our past and worrying about the future results in us ruining our present. It's a valid point and brought to mind one of my favorite lines from a Hindi movie. In the particular scene, the lead actor, Aamir Khan, tells his friends: "We have one leg in the past and one leg in the future and in the process are pissing all over our present". (Loosely translated from the original Hindi lines, of course).
But then, as humans, are we really capable of that degree of insight or that level of optimism and positivity? How on earth can you explain to those whose loved ones have died in the recent floods in North India that it is a happy situation? That there is some positive in it? What should have been a positive moment in their lives (the opportunity to embark on one of the most sacred pilgrimages in the Hindu religion and seek blessings at one of its holiest sites) had gone horribly wrong when mother nature unleashed her fury. What about other man-made disasters? It's been 12 years since the Twin Towers were brought down and with it roughly 3,000 innocent people. How can you find the good in that if you are a surviving relative? Sometimes, therefore, it may not always be easy to see the positive in everything, or to clearly categorize everything in black and white, as positive or negative.
Maybe there is another way to look at it. Maybe, as humans, we are not capable of seeing things as positive or negative only, and we therefore invent a 'grey area.' Why is it that these happenings occur only to some people and not all? What had those pilgrims or those people stuck in the World Trade Center Towers done to deserve their fate? Shortly before I had come across this article, I read a Facebook post that said, "You only get what you deserve. Nothing more, nothing less." What I wondered was whether this was a diametrically opposite view to the one expressed in the blog earlier or whether it bore relation to that comment; essentially man's way of justifying things in this world.
Karma, like religion, I believe is something that was created to give man a sense of purpose, a sense of direction. When all else failed, man could turn to God and look to his own karma to justify his actions, and possibly even the reactions to those actions. For, after all, what is religion? It is a story of good vs. evil and an example for all humans to follow whereby good prevails over evil. It provides man with a sense of direction and something to aim for in life, if they live up to certain standards set by society. If they fail to adhere, they would incur the wrath of the Gods, and be punished for the same. For those believers of karma, it would come back to bite them in the a$$, in this life or the next.
As I say this, I remember a story my granddad told me. He is a pious man, who prays religiously (no pun intended) every morning before he commences the regular activities of his day. We had just returned from visiting a holy shrine, which sadly, is run more like a business than anything else these days. I was a little disillusioned and, as always, chose to mumble my displeasure under my breath (not wanting to annoy or disrespect the faith of the believers). My granddad took me aside and very clearly told me,
It's OK. You don't have to believe what everyone does. As long as you have your own faith and your own belief system, you are not in the wrong. You don't have to pray to and agree with others' belief systems. God is everywhere and it is where you see him that matters; it needn't be at a shrine that everyone else considers important.
I was a little shocked listening to this coming from him; it almost sounded unreal. He went on to tell me a story:
Two men were walking through the desert with their donkey. It had been many days in the hot sun and they were slowly running out of food and water. Finally, one day, they did run out of water and the first one to succumb was the donkey. Saddened, they buried the donkey in the sand and sat by the grave, weeping and mourning their loss. Shortly, a few traders passed by in their caravan wondering why these two men were crying. Was it someone important they were mourning? At this, one of the two mourners said, yes, they were indeed mourning the loss of a famous pir (saint); he was a great man who was capable of great things. At this, the entire caravan sat down and joined the two men in their grievance. As word spread of the loss of the great saint, more people from neighboring towns and villages came by to pay their respects. Gradually, a small memorial was built, which grew in size until it became a 'must-visit' pilgrimage site for all those who wanted to absolve themselves of their sins and more importantly, pay their respects to the 'great' man.
In the end, it is what you believe and not what others want you to believe that matters. If it is karma, then so be it. If it is your own attitude, then so be it. These are all human ways to confront the challenges we face in life, and if one makes it easier for you, then go for it. As is with our shoes, not one size fits all, and so too it is with our ways of confronting life. No one way is the right way... But then again, you don't want to be caught making a donkey of yourself.
P.S. I am not an atheist; far from it actually. I believe that there is indeed a super power out there that governs us all and I am thankful to it every day. I, however, choose to pursue my beliefs quietly, in my own time, rather than follow popular beliefs and practices!