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Change or Perish



The world today is in a state of chaos and confusion. At home fight between couples, hatred among siblings, stress, strain, life-style diseases etc. rule the scene. Society is suffering from internal clashes and rifts. The nation is torn apart thanks to militancy, terrorism and vandalism. Where are we leading ourselves to?


“Change or perish, is the law of life.”


We resist change. We do not realize that change is a common phenomenon in nature. Infancy becomes childhood, childhood gives way to youthhood, youthhood turns into manhood, old age and so on. Change results in growth and if resisted leads to stagnation and death.


Therefore, we should change:

1. in order to survive

2. in order to get rid of old memories, habits and irrelevant traditions.


When we are free from our past burdens we can take advantage of the present.


Everyone wants change! But where do we start?


Alvin Toffler says,


“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those

who cannot read and write,

but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”


Now, that seems to be the key. We need to learn, unlearn and relearn.


Learn to set an ideal beyond one’s selfish interest, analyse and accept the present state, look for new ideas and take in fresh thoughts.


Unlearn habituations, negative thoughts/ideas, mindsets, pre-conceived notions that will deter our progress towards the goal.


Relearn to remain focused on the goal, be in the present without getting disturbed by past actions and future anxieties. There should be no result orientation in the present.

We need to shift our focus from the world and move within to understand who we are and what the purpose of being alive is! This enhances the process of learning, unlearning and relearning.


True growth is internal and not external. The more each one of us anchors in our inner personality, the more one grows – the more one grows, the more one identifies with the world at large. This is true globalization.


When we change, the world changes!


Now, the question arises: Do we need external force to reform us?


As Swami Rama Tirtha says,


“Reforming people is like straightening a dog’s tail.”


No external pressure can bring about internal transformation.


As the Bhagavad Gita claims in Chapter 6, Verse 5,


ऊद्धरेदात्मनात्मानं नात्मानमवसादयेत्

आत्मैव ह्यात्मनो बन्धुरात्मैव रिपुरात्मनः


Raise yourself by yourself!


No one can do it for us. It is like physical exercise. Can we ask someone else to pick the dumbbells and expect our body to change? Same way we have to pick our spiritual dumbbells to see change within us.


So rise from what to what?


There are five levels that a human being can aspire to attain.

1. Spiritual Level

2. Intellectual Level

3. Emotional Level

4. Physical Level

5. Material Level


Our aim in life should be to move from material to spiritual level. Moving from one level to the next higher level involves change, stepping out of our comfort zones.


At the gross level a person identifies with material prosperity as be all and end all of life. Swami Rama Tirtha says,


“Iron and gold are good for buying iron and gold.”


When one understands this, one automatically pushes himself to the next level. Identifying with the next level, he clean drops the material level. This next level is the physical level where one gets attracted to beauty. At all levels there is a danger of stagnation. Following the precepts of the Bhaja Govindam one should rise above this level too.


The shloka says,


नारीस्तनभरनाभीदेशं दृष्ट्वा मा गा मोहावेशम्

एतन्मांसवसादिविकारं मनसि विचिन्तय वारं वारम्


Crossing this level one gets attached to the level of emotions. One floats and sinks in these emotional mires unable to breathe.


A few manage to break this shackle and move on to the intellectual level. Here too one can get terribly attached to worldly knowledge. As Rabindranath Tagore says,


“The world is full of sound scholars,

but not sound men.”


This brings us to the final level. Mumukshatva, मुमुक्षत्वा, the burning desire to attain liberation, spiritual unfoldment, is different in kind not in degree. This is where one understands the futility of the former four levels. A person blessed with material prosperity, physical health, emotional satisfaction and intellectual clarity, still finds himself lacking in this world. He finds it necessary to fill this inner void. One rises above them.


But getting attached to the spiritual level is the greatest danger. Like the Isavasya Upanishad says, it is blinding darkness, अन्धंतमः


Through the first four levels one attains the terrestrial goal of prosperity and limited peace! It is the realization of the Self that gives infinite peace and is considered the ultimate goal of mankind.


Thus having risen, one sets an example for others to follow. Having attained the highest ideal one becomes a complete person, परिपूर्णम् paripurnam. There is no longer any void.


He becomes the role model for the entire world to follow as expressed beautifully in the 21st verse of Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita.


यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः

यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते


Keeping the above pointers in mind, go ahead and pursue the changes you want to make in your life so that the New Year is productive and peaceful.


Wishing you all a very happy year ahead!


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