Spiritual Discourses: There is benevolence and fairness in this universe
First of all, we should gain the understanding that there is benevolence and fairness in this universe, even though some events appear to be unfair. When we look at some limited aspects of the creation, there may appear to be disorder. Yet when we look at the overall picture, we find that what appears to be injustice at any given point, works itself out in the course of time. There is no reason why anything should be unfair because this creation did not arise out of need or incompleteness. If the creation were a product of attachment or aversion or likes and dislikes, it could potentially be unfair. Whenever we act out of attachment or aversion, our actions could be unfair. We may be partial to the one to whom we are attached and cruel to the one to whom we are averse. We do find a lot of disparity in the world. There are many who are gifted with things while others remain deprived. This is where the order and law of karma come into play. Whatever happens is due to this order. Our śraddhã is that even when īśvara gives us an undesirable result, it is not meant as a punishment. This creation has come out of the wholeness, saccidãnanda, and, therefore, there is no scope for likes and dislikes in īśvara. If our observation does not seem to concur with this, we should be willing to give it up and accept the scriptural declaration instead. If we continue to function on the basis of our insecurities, our actions will not be in keeping with the order. Our evaluation of what we perceive is based on our preconceived notions. To the extent that we accept the order of īśvara, we are free. This understanding at the intellectual level can be put into practice by cultivating an attitude of graceful acceptance.
Sometimes, we give up our prayers in frustration as they do not seem to work. However, prayer does work. Prayer is a deliberate action and every action has a result. The result may not be what we want it to be, but there is indeed some result. Whatever is happening to us could very well be due to our prayers. When we say things are ‘working out’ or ‘not working out,’ our judgment is determined by our limited knowledge. In the long run, we may well be better off if our current wish is not fulfilled, although, from a short-term perspective, it may appear differently. This calls for giving īśvara the benefit of the doubt or having śraddhã and bhakti. It becomes possible only to the extent that we trust in īśvara. In the Bhagavad Gita, this attitude of mind is called samatvam.
siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhutva samatvam yoga ucyate.
…remaining the same to success and failure alike. This evenness of mind is called yoga [2-48].
nityam ch samachittatvamistanishtopapattisu.
…and always evenness of mind regarding the gain of the desirable and the undesirable… [13-10]
Acceptance means being respectful of the whole creation for what it is. Snakes, poison ivy etc. are what they are because they are created that way. Therefore, do not hate them for what they are. Keep them in their place out of respect. This attitude is based on truth and reality. Ultimately, everything is God. Our goal is to see Brahman everywhere. That is not the case when we act out of anger or rejection. The attitude of graceful acceptance will enable us to see that īśvara is not only the creator of this universe but also manifests as this very world. Lord Krishna says, [Bhagavad Gita, 18-61], īśvarah sarvabhutanama hruddeshe’rjuna tisthati, īśvara abides in the hearts of all beings. Therefore, he is the self of all. He is all-pervasive. To know īśvara means to know that he is the nimittakaranam, the efficient cause, and also the upadana-karanam, the material cause of this world.
Graceful acceptance is the trust that there is fairness in all situations
One aspect of living a life of surrender is the surrendering of resistance to the realities of life and maintaining a certain poise of mind in all situations, with an attitude of graceful acceptance. There is freedom in that. We are required to let go of our preconceived notions, likes and dislikes, and definitions of success and failure. Lord Krishna says that he, not us, should define success and failure. Therefore, rather than keeping our notions intact and requiring the world to change in order to concur with our notions, we should change our notions instead. This will slowly and surely transform our notions of success and failure completely. Then, whatever happens, would only be success. Graceful acceptance is the recognition that whatever happens is authored by the Lord. The effort is in our hands; we can call ourselves the author of our actions. Yet, as far as the result or outcome of the action is concerned, the author is īśvara; the result is in keeping with his law. Yes, some do violate the laws and seem to get away with it all the time. But we do not know the relationship between cause and effect. We do not know if what is happening to us today is necessarily the result of what we did yesterday. We cannot determine that what is happening to us now is the result of our honesty; nor can we say that someone else enjoys success in spite of his dishonesty. Success and failure can have many causes. For example, a farmer grows different crops in different seasons. The grain is stored in bins in successive layers as each is harvested – rice, wheat, corn etc. Even as he pours corn into it, if the vent in the bottom is opened, he gets rice. This happens because the rice was stored earlier. The corn will pour out when the right time comes. There should be trust that there is only fairness in this universe and there is no reason for punishment. This manner of acceptance offers tremendous relief because all complaint and blame is given up. The graceful acceptance of what happens around us comes from identifying with īśvara and dissociating from our own likes and dislikes. Graceful acceptance includes accepting oneself
As there is graceful acceptance of situations, let there also be a graceful acceptance of oneself. When things do not go our way, we have a tendency to label ourselves a failure. This evokes anger and frustration in us. In the process of growing up, a lot of resentment accumulates in the mind. One becomes very sensitive and prone to hurt and feels that a lot of injustice has been done. However, whatever happens is entirely in keeping with one’s own karma; nothing ever happens without a reason. Psychologists do not have the benefit of taking past births into consideration. They see one’s present birth as the beginning of life and, therefore, explain whatever happens as being based on this life alone. But that is not the case. This is not our first birth; there cannot ever be a ‘first’ birth. No event can happen unless there is a cause. Birth being an event, must have a past cause. We must have existed in the past and done something to beget this birth. This is an ongoing process without a beginning. Nobody can visualize its beginning. A beginning implies a time when something did not exist. Our minds can never visualize non-existence. Nothing comes into existence without a reason; there is a cause for every effect. One has had countless embodiments in the past and each present has been the result of a past. The pain and pleasure of the present is thus destiny that has unfolded. Nobody causes situations to happen; they are merely instrumental in creating the situations that one is destined to go through. Pain is as much a reality of life as is pleasure. No one in the world is free of pain. Pain also contributes to our lives. If we accept that whatever happened in the past is fair, there is no need to nurse any hurt. We can then admit that it is destiny at work; it was meant to happen. No one else is to blame for the result of one’s own karma. This frees us from harbouring blame, resentment, and anger. Such graceful acceptance enables us to resolve feelings of hurt. Guilt makes us blame ourselves for doing something wrong. Yet, at any given time, we do the best we can with whatever knowledge and understanding we have. We act with the best of intentions. Therefore, there is no need for blame. Later, even if our perspectives change, we should not judge past actions or decisions as right or wrong. People often question specific events in the Ramãyana and the Mahãbhãrata. The characters in those two epics made their decisions in keeping with the code of conduct and social mores of their times. You cannot justify some of their actions now. Social customs and conditions are always subject to change depending on time and place; new laws supersede the laws of the past. Vedanta is very practical in its approach. It gives importance to that which pertains to eternal reality. The spirit is eternal, while the form is subject to change. Therefore, there is no need to blame anybody. Learn what you can from your past and then let it go. Let go of the past; what is gone is gone. As long as our current actions are governed by our past, we do not live in the present. As long as we continue to blame, we are not oriented towards understanding. As the karma-phala- dãta, dispenser of the results of actions, īśvara is the author of the results of all actions. In his infinite wisdom, he decides what is good for us, and, therefore, it must be right. Someday, we may understand His logic; for now, we accept it gracefully. There is no such thing as success or failure. It exists merely in our perceptions. There is only action and result. Success and failure, however, have to be given some reality while functioning in the world because our performance is always judged based on certain standards determined by the world. When we work in the world, we need to respect its code of conduct without rejecting ourselves. We respect the standards that the world requires with reference to performance, success, and failure. We do the best we can and gracefully accept the results. It implies an acceptance of our limitations: We cannot expect ourselves to be omniscient or all-knowing and omnipotent or all-powerful, or expect that whatever we do must always be right. We place demands upon ourselves and label ourselves a failure when these demands are not met. Graceful acceptance lies in accepting our limitations and knowing that we are right as we are. This is humility. It is also a kind of surrender. It comes from accepting the realities of life. Humility comes when we accept that we are limited. However, while the powers that we are endowed with are limited in nature, we do have a commitment to cultivate them.
*Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati has been teaching Vedānta Prasthānatrayī and Prakaraṇagranthas for last 40 years in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Throughout the year, he conducts daily Vedānta discourses, accompanied by retreats, and Jñāna Yajñas on Vedānta in different cities in India and in foreign countries.