We come into this world, high on the dose of adrenaline. We sprint through life and manage to have our way. We are vain and arrogant, with or without a reason. We rely on our short-sighted cleverness and love to play games – mind games. Some games are supported by evidence, such as me-rich-you-poor, me-beautiful-you-average-looker; some games are based on the presumption of being first among equals, such as me-wise-you foolish, me-smart-you-dumb, me-superior-you-inferior.
We bully people and cut them to size with our razor-sharp tongue and our superior attitude. We carry on in the same mould, when we are backed by our social status and achievements. In short, we feel invincible – flying so high, with our heads in the sky!
For all our superiority and cleverness, life – which works on the principle of balance – prepares a nursery to tame us. It (life) is known to be a great leveller. With the help of time, it carries out its game plan. Since our ‘vain self’ has had the luxury of getting away with murder, of people’s emotions and feelings, it is oblivious to the suffering around it. We look down at people around us who are defeated by their circumstances and have an innate sense of assurance that we are above pain and suffering. Our sympathy for others also borders on conceit.
We believe that we, the chosen ones, are insulated because of our ‘greatness’ and the others, the lesser mortals, are punished for their mediocrity, if not abasement. Hence, the virtues of compassion, patience and endurance are not meant for us to practice.
Since we live our life identifying with our ego, we are accountable for all our actions. Our arrogance is the barometer that determines the degree of identification we have with our ego. The greater the degree of identification, the more bloated is our ego.
And then, it’s payback time. One fine day, out of the blues, our fortunes begin to dwindle. Whether it’s our financial position, or our health, or other delays, we find ourselves stuck in a situation of no exit. After the initial rage of being trapped subsides, the inflated balloon of our arrogance deflates. Now we can either take the situation personally – that is, blame the people around us, grudge them the situation that we are in – or we can learn the lessons of life.
When we blame people around us, we are still operating with ‘ego’. Arrogance has been replaced by anger and hatred. There is no growth. But when we reflect on life and its innate property of the ‘law of karma’, we realise that we are responsible for our situation. In the former approach, our focus is on external situations, in the latter case, our personal attitude and approach towards life is our focus. If we are true to our self, we will accept our behavioural flaws. It’s not an easy thing to do because the ego always justifies.
But, if we can really be brave and have the courage to reflect and admit our mistakes, grave or petty, to ourselves, we are sure to make progress. Our situation of ‘no exit’ has the alchemy to transform us. We start working on our self (sadhana) and are chastened by the experience. Stripped of our arrogance, our humble self can now relate to people and their trying circumstances.
The ‘cosmic prison’ of a no-exit situation opens its doors on us yet again. With our crown of arrogance nicely crushed, the world seems a less complicated and more compassionate place to dwell in.