In his book, ‘The Difficulty of Being Good’, Gurcharan Das writes, ‘Prosperity had (indeed) spread across India, but goodness had not.’
Recently, a newly shifted family’s request for a bottle of water from their neighbour was turned down. A trivial incident, which would pale in the light of all the gruesome incidents happening around us and yet, this petty act goes on to show how meanness has seeped into the core of our being.
The middle class of India never had it so good. The multinational companies have served it well; they have fulfilled the aspirations of the common man like never before. Luxuries and privileges such as fancy cars, vacationing abroad, club memberships… are all a part of this package. And yet, the more he (the common man) has to spare, the more he has contracted.
Each family has become an island and with its newly found affluence thinks it can survive the storms of survival on its own. Gone are the days when it was the duty of every family member to contribute in the upkeep of the house. The elders of the family would ensure that the younger siblings got educated and became self-sufficient so that they could live with dignity. They also took it upon themselves to marry off the eligible women into decent households. It was only after fulfilling their duty towards their family that an individual would think of himself. This sort of commitment to duty is rare today. Indeed, the economy is growing but goodness is fading.
So, how does one motivate people to do good and fulfil their duty towards their family, society and nation?
Selfish and mean people are mostly beyond human reform. Evolutionary biology has concluded that our intrinsic nature is a part of our DNA. It is who we are. In metaphysical lingo we would call them souls that are not evolved. The visible and the tangible is their ‘ultimate reality’. Their petty accumulations and achievements are the only ‘truths’ that they are concerned with. They have neither the inclination nor the patience to observe the principles on which the tangible world is based. They find the theory of karma too abstract and the concept of heaven and hell unrealistic or out of their immediate concern.
Their relationship with God is purely need-based; God is more like Santa Claus to them, someone who fulfils their wishes. Since they are all piety and devotion in front of God, they believe they can get away with being mean once they are away from that zone. What they don’t realise is that God resides in each creature and is omnipresent.
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In Hindu mythology, a fierce-looking lion’s head, known as Kirtimukha, often adorns the doorways and arches of temples. It represents the truth that God can see beyond our projection. The mocking expression on the lion’s head reminds everyone that the unspoken truths in our hearts are not hidden from God.
Since dharma (righteousness) does not appeal to selfish people, it is best to leave their reform to God. God gives subtle warnings to creatures so that they can mend their ways. But if they don’t pay heed, He reverses their fortune and the arrogance of being able to survive in isolation comes crumbling down. While spiralling down they encounter all the thorns that they had scattered along the way.
Whether it’s the Law of Karma or evolutionary biology, our actions inevitably have consequences. The path of dharma or moral rules, ultimately facilitate our co- existence, which is essential for our survival. As Charles Darwin speculated in his book ‘The Descent of Man’, that in the course of evolution, if a person helped another, he would also receive help in return.
The family had another neighbour offer them water of their own accord and humanity was restored. And as long as goodness survives, so will the human race.