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December 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         December 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Dec' 2017


Learning from encounters

Rajesh Bhola

The planet on which we live is beautiful. Natural beauty, colours, sounds, and exotic foods abound. At the same time, modern science and human ingenuity have devised ways of mitigating human pain. But despite all this, life is not easy. Even in the midst of collective plenty and nature's extravagance, some people may live lives of desperation.
As the modern world is becoming more crowded and intricate, we need some guidance on how to live. We need to share the pain, and help others. The losses of dear and near ones, that we all encounter, mark us and make us. Suffering is part of what it means to be alive. Nobody is truly mature who has not suffered. This life is temporary. Everything comes and goes; good times and bad times - nothing remains.
During our lifetimes, obstacles and suffering we will assuredly meet. The Almighty wants us to meet these well. When we experience obstacles and ailments, it can go either way with us. We may become bitter, depressed and alienated; or we may grow as people.
Experience broadens us. Difficult experiences challenge us. We need to learn how to overcome; to not be defeated. Obstacles should wake us up. Enlightenment does not abolish them; it teaches us ways of surmounting them. We should learn to empathize with the sorrows and grief of others in the neighborhood, and grow as sensible citizens of a society.
Amidst sorrows, we are at times troubled, and question the meaning of our existence – of birth and death. It is only when we have the courage to live life as it is, when we are no longer running away, that we experience a profound relaxation in our heart. We then no longer have to live defensively. We should not start to learn the art of self defense when ambushed. It is better to train oneself to handle the situation better.
The more aware we become of our lives, the more we realize just how blind we have been. Every time that greed, lust, hate, anger or apathy gets the better of us, we have suffered another injury to our spirit. We need to increase our capacity to cope with such encounters. If we keep on working at this, we will be prepared when the big ambushes arrive. And such preparedness should be used in a positive way, in our reaction to the pain of others. We all know that pain, disease, decay and death will come upon us. Yet too often we live our lives pretending this will not happen to us. None of us knows what is going to happen the next moment. All within a day we may discover that somebody close to us had a serious accident, or we may discover a lump in our body which has turned malignant, or learn that a major earthquake has shaken some part of the earth.
We can be going along happily, when suddenly our world is turned upside down. We try to find refuge, and search for security. The pain and suffering is not something for each of us to solve on our own. It is by reaching out to one another that we can respond to our collective pain, in a constructive and spirited way.
Sickness and old age also comes on the way. Many feelings come to the fore when we are ill. It is not pleasant. And yet, some live life very differently. They do not go through it merely existing. Sure, when they suffer, they also feel the pain – but do not go into a downward spiral of anguish. They do not see the injury—or any kind of illness—as a sign of their bad luck or fate, for instance. They do not start to feel self-pity. They realize that the body is prone to illness and injury. If an illness occurs, this is not really out of the ordinary. Getting injured or getting an ailment, any time in life, is part and parcel of having a body.
Such people are able to weather even the most terrible events without panicking, or creating further trouble. They have large hearts which, like a large expanse of water, can swallow even the largest boulders that fall into them, without the splash creating a tidal wave. But the majorities of hearts are small and closed and even a little pebble falling into their pond makes a great splash and disturbs them. Small hurts are quickly magnified into major crises.
A person who has learnt from encounters with difficulties develops a capacity to take life in his/her stride, reaches out to people – both in joyful and difficult times. And each contact with suffering is an opportunity to increase our capacity for compassion and understanding.