Spirituality: Who is a successful human being?
Spiritual Discourses: Who is a successful human being?
By Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati*
Every human being wants success. We are born with a desire to be successful. This is not the case with living beings other than human beings, which have no notion of success and failure. Our Pujya Swamiji used to give the example of a dog show where a number of dogs are displayed. One dog will be judged the best. The dog owner takes his dog for a walk, showing the dog to everybody. Who feels the sense of success? Does the dog feel successful? He doesn’t know what is happening; it is the owner of the dog who feels successful.
Many years ago, in New York City, I was taken to the Belmont Horse Track. Some friends invited me there and people bet. I was told by somebody that horse number seven in the third race is the favourite horse. “You should bet on that horse,” he said. I did not know anything about races and I never gambled before, but my friends worked upon my greed. I had one hundred dollars in my pocket. They said if you bet one hundred dollars, you’ll win one thousand dollars if the horse wins. My greed overcame me and I bet my hundred dollars.
Now came the horse race number three and everyone got up from their seats watching with binoculars. I was hoping that horse number seven would be number one. When the shot was fired, all horses started running, but horse number seven, on which I placed my bet, did not even start! It finally finished last. That night I could not sleep! I could not enjoy my dinner because I failed, I lost! Do you think that horse number seven did not eat its dinner? Do you think it did not sleep? There was no effect on the horse!
The notion of success and failure is a unique problem of the human being. You have to be successful and you cannot accept failure. Therefore, from childhood until death our constant effort is to be successful.
What is success? The world says that those who are wealthy, famous and powerful are successful! Therefore, everyone wants to be equally wealthy, famous and powerful. We equate success with these material accomplishments. Everybody has a picture of a successful self. I will be successful if I am wealthy! I will be successful if I am famous! I will be successful if I am powerful!
And therefore, I strive constantly to acquire wealth, fame, power!
But is that really success? Vedanta asks this question: What is success?
You may say that success is when my desire is fulfilled. I desire something and if my desire is fulfilled, I feel successful. Someone desired to gain the first rank in the university, but that person got the fifth rank and thought he was a failure. On the other hand, somebody did not even expect to pass the exam and he got passing marks. He felt successful. So somebody who gets 99% marks feels that he is a failure because he wanted 100%. And somebody who just wanted 35% marks feels successful because he got 40%. So what is success? Is 99% success? Or is 40% success?
What is success? Success is when you feel you are successful.
Unfortunately, all along we try to get approval from others. We want others to declare us successful. Therefore, we are always trying to please others, so that they will respect us, so that they will honor us, because we do not respect ourselves. The human being does not respect himself or herself. We have a low self-esteem, we have a very low opinion of ourselves, and that is what makes us unhappy.
In order to be happy, I should have a good opinion of myself. But I think I am good if you say that I am good. Since I do not think I am good, I hope that you will tell me that I am good. Therefore, all the time I struggle to please you so that you will say that I am good. Then, I feel I am good! Therefore success is a subjective feeling. We equate success based on external situations, but real success is an inner feeling of the mind. As a child, I felt successful when I spelled “C as in cat”. I felt that I was great with a simple spelling.
Now that I am grown up, I feel nothing about the spelling.
Therefore, success is when I feel I am successful. When will I feel that I am successful?
When I am happy with myself! When am I happy with myself? When I live up to my own expectations of myself.
Each one of us has expectations from our own self, that I should be such and such! When I am able to fulfil that expectation, I feel happy with myself, then I feel I am successful. On the other hand, when I am not able to fulfil my own expectation of myself, I feel unhappy with myself. I do not accept myself. Sometimes I reject myself.
I even condemn myself! The self-non-acceptance, self-rejection, and self-condemnation, are only a problem of the human being because I am a self-conscious being. I am always conscious of myself.
Not only that, but I am a judgmental being. I constantly judge myself. If I judge myself as good, then I am happy. If I judge myself as not acceptable, I am unhappy. Therefore, I am the cause of my happiness and I am the cause of my unhappiness. Nobody else makes me happy, nor does anybody else make me unhappy. It is I who makes myself happy and it is I who makes myself unhappy. When I make myself happy I am successful. When I make myself unhappy, I am a failure.
Success is most important to us. And therefore my approval of myself is most important to me. My acceptance of myself is most important to me. This is very important to understand: We are the cause of our happiness and we are the cause of our unhappiness. You may find it difficult to accept this. You may think that it is your mother-in-law who makes you unhappy, that your spouse makes you unhappy, and that your boss makes you unhappy. We think that the cause of our unhappiness lies out there. Therefore, our whole life we try to change things outside. We try to create a situation where we think the situation will make us happy. Therefore, all the time we are trying to please others, but this is a wrong understanding.
Nobody can make me unhappy if I do not allow them to make me unhappy. You can make me unhappy only if I cooperate with you. If I do not cooperate, you cannot make me unhappy. Suppose somebody tells me. “Swamiji, he insulted me! I am very unhappy!” I ask him, “What do you mean by an insult?” “He said such and such thing to me!” I said that is his opinion. What happens is, we make his opinion our opinion. “He said to me yesterday that I am stupid and I felt hurt.” That is because he had a very low self-esteem.
Our Swamiji used to make a joke. Four people are going somewhere. They are Alfredo, Peter, Tom and Roberto. I say “Roberto!” and Roberto looks back at me. I say “Alfredo!” Alfredo looks back at me. I say “Stupid!” and all four look back because that is how people feel about themselves. Because we have a very low opinion of ourselves.
Therefore, the way to become successful is to have a good opinion of myself, to accept myself, is to be satisfied with myself. You may say, “Swamiji, I’m satisfied with myself.” But that doesn’t work. By saying that I am happy, I do not become happy. By saying that I am satisfied with myself, I do not become satisfied. Happiness has to happen. Satisfaction has to happen. It’s like love. Someone says, “Please love this person!” You can’t love. Love has to happen. Otherwise, everybody would love everybody else. But we do not see that. Sometimes even spouses cannot love each other.
If you could will to love, it would be so nice, you could also will to be happy with no effort at all. Sometimes people say, “Be happy!” But that does not work. If one could will to be happy, who will be unhappy?
Unhappiness comes, whether I want it or not. Therefore, happiness has to happen. Success has to happen. When will it happen? When I create in myself a disposition of mind, which is a happy disposition. I have to work very hard to make myself acceptable to myself.
How do we do that?
to be continued…..
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હરીફાઈ, સરખામણી, ઈચ્છા, મહત્વાકાંક્ષા, રાગ-દ્વેષ વિ. અહંકારનાં જ પ્રકારો છે, કંઈક બનવાની મનોદશા કરતાં જે કાંઈ થઈ રહ્યું છે તેની સાક્ષી મનોદશા સર્જનાત્મક છે, અહમ્ મૂક્ત મન સમગ્ર અસ્તિત્વ ની શક્તિ ઉપલબ્ધ કરવા સમર્થ હોય છે🇮🇳