Couples are known to argue. In one such dispute, the disagreement became so acute that they had to settle it in court. There, they began arguing in front of the judge! The wife demanded, “I want my son to become an accountant!” while the husband countered, “No! He should become a doctor!” As it went back and forth, each side stubbornly defending their corner, the judge interjected and innocently asked, “Why don’t you just ask your son what he wants to be?” The couple looked at the judge incredulously - “our son isn ’t even born yet!”
Each one of us are on the receiving end of our fair share of pressure and expectation. That powerful energy can inspire and elevate us, or depress and destroy us. Family, friends, society and the media set the bars of success, and we feel impelled to rise to the challenge. We want to be appreciated and accepted, acknowledged in a positive light, and we strive to make others proud of us. We shed blood, sweat and tears to create a life that looks good on the outside. Ironically, it may not feel very good on the inside. Does our value lie in external achievements or something much deeper? How do we define real success?
In Chapter Five, Krishna reassures Arjuna that far from impeding his spiritual journey, active life in the world can complement it. The key, however, is to function with detachment. Krishna explains that we cannot determine the results of our work, since there are influences which conspire beyond our control. Even when we try our best, things don’t always transpire as planned. Though this may sound deflating, it’s actually extremely liberating. We can only control our effort and endeavour – the rest is in the hands of providence. Knowing this, in times of achievement we feel immense gratitude, and in times of adversity we remain determined and hopeful, knowing that a higher plan is in place. Without this vision of spiritual dependency, our successes may cause us to become proud and complacent, while our adversities may bring loss of esteem and hopelessness, a feeling of being useless and inadequate. Success in life, Krishna says, is not to be the best but rather to try our best.
In the epic tale of Ramayana, we find a beautiful scene where herculean monkeys are throwing huge boulders into the sea, working to build a massive bridge so they can conquer the demon Ravana. There, we encounter one small squirrel. Some say it was contributing a few pebbles into the bridge-building exercise. Others say it was sliding dirt into the cracks to smoothen the jagged edges. One commentator mentions it was jumping into the sea, soaking up its fur with water, and coming back onto shore and shaking it off, hoping to dry up the ocean in that fashion! Whichever one it was, the monkeys were looking at the squirrel and thinking, “Small! Insignificant! Make way for the heavy weight contributors!” Lord Rama, however, was looking at the squirrel saying, “Amazing! Wonderful! What a beautiful devotional offering!” It’s the wholehearted utilisation of our God-given capacity that counts. This is real success.
Putting undue pressure on ourselves to be high achievers may render us anxious, frustrated and even depressed. We can be ambitious, adventurous and bold, but must temper it with the deep spiritual awareness that our success is in trying our best. All subsequent results are sanctioned by Providence, beyond our circle of influence.
“The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me; whereas a person who is not in union with the Divine, who is greedy for the fruits of his labour, becomes entangled.” (Bhagavad-gita 5.12)