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A karmayogi’s last marathon

In the last lap of the marathon election campaign,two wisdom-filled books,both by Japanese authors....

Written by Sudheendra Kulkarni |
May 17, 2009 1:43:58 am

In the last lap of the marathon election campaign,two wisdom-filled books,both by Japanese authors,helped turn the focus of my thoughts inwards. In the din of the election battle,when much of my energy was taken up in arguments and counter-arguments,I regularly felt the need for moments of quiet contemplation to know if I was doing the right thing the right way. Of course,it helped to have a session of collective meditation each evening along with fellow volunteers in the campaign office. But the dialogue with oneself was also aided by a remarkable book The Secret Life of Water by Masaru Emoto,who has written another best-selling book The Hidden Messages in Water. He presents a revolutionary theory that our thoughts,positive or negative,have a direct effect on water and,by implication,on all life and on the creation of our world tomorrow. “Water reflects the human soul,” he writes. “If you say ‘Thank you’ to water,it will be reflected in the formation of beautiful crystals overflowing with gratitude in return. If the hearts of those who live on the planet are contaminated,then the earth will become that way.” In other words,perform every action,including electioneering,with the right attitude if you want the right results.

The question that I frequently asked myself over the past few months was this: “Our party says that it wants to contribute to the building of a better India tomorrow. Are we,therefore,participating in this election campaign with the purest of thoughts,feelings and actions?” The honest answer is that many of us — above all,our leader L.K. Advani — tried with as much honesty as we could summon. True,we lost the election,and defeat always brings a terrible feeling of disappointment. But we have the satisfaction that we did nothing that would ever shame us or belittle us in our own esteem. If anything,we were elevated by working for a leader who motivated us with his selfless character,his indefatigable personal effort,which daily exceeded the limits of human capacity at his age,and his inspirational thoughts for the nation (“Let’s make the 21st century India’s century.”) Even in this moment of defeat,that is some victory in itself.

“The act of living,” writes Emoto,“is the act of flowing like water.” The life of our party will flow on. Our party,founded by a great brave-heart patriot like Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee,guided by a seer like Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya,and built to its present level of strength by dedicated leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani,is not going to stop its journey because of this electoral setback. We’ll introspect,learn the right lessons,apply correctives,and move on,with purer thoughts,feelings and actions.

The second book that figured in my campaign-time reading was Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Murakami,Japan’s most famous living novelist,weaves his stories with incredibly fine threads of imagination and insight,almost resembling laser-beams,into human psychology. This book is not a novel; rather,it is a memoir of his reflections as a long-distance runner. Murakami,probably the only novelist who is also a marathon runner,states that running is both a physical exercise and a catalyst for philosophical reflection about oneself. “Running day after day,piling up the races,bit by bit I raise the bar,and by clearing each level I elevate myself.” Murakami says that as a runner,and also as a novelist,he is not particularly competitive. “I am much more interested in whether I reach the goals that I set for myself,so in this sense long-distance running is the perfect fit for a mindset like mine.”

Advani’s life is also that of a long-distance runner. In his long political career spanning over six decades — longer than any active political leader in India — he has never stopped running. He has also never stopped looking within,in moments of triumph or defeat. He is one of the rare leaders who puts a very high premium on right thoughts,right expression and right action. He knows that it is very difficult to do so in politics,but he has never stopped trying,and never given up.

Advani’s weakness in this election was that he did not display enough of a winner’s instinct. There are,of course,many factors behind the BJP’s defeat,but one of them is that he did not take the several ruthless decisions that needed to be taken at different points after the BJP’s 2004 defeat. Advani proved to be too much of a gentleman to hurt others. In running the most important marathon of his life,he no doubt grew as an even better human being but,as a leader,he ought to have asserted himself more.

At a thanks-giving function at the BJP headquarters a few days ago,Advani,while addressing all the party workers who had worked on the campaign,said,“The people have voted. We will know their verdict on May 16. The right thing for us to do is to follow the teaching of the Bhagawad Gita. We have done our karma to the best of our abilities and with utmost sincerity. As far as the outcome of our karma is concerned,let us leave it to the Almighty. Whatever be the people’s verdict,let us accept it with humility.”

Advani,the greatest long-distance runner in Indian politics,has lived the life of a karma yogi. Sad he certainly is in this hour of defeat. But on many higher criteria that determine success in life,he has risen even higher in the esteem of all those who know him.

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