Today I heard someone talk about preserving the history and heritage of towns and cities. During this, he referred to the city of Chester, Pennsylvania. The city, it seems, had a historic sign (now taken down, sadly) which read “What Chester makes makes Chester.” Which quote bowled the listeners over.
This set met thinking on a quote and an anecdote on similar lines. The quote is attributed to Aristotle and popularized by software quality assurance managers when they send us programmers their bug reports and statuses. It goes thus: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is a habit.” I have always found it very inspiring (though the bugs just never seemed to abate).
The story is not as well-known. It relates to the first and the last verses of The Bhagavad Gita, which many consider as containing the definitive essence of Hinduism. The Gita starts with the words “dharma kshetre kurukshetre…” and ends with the words “… dhruva nitir matir mama.” Some scholars believe that there is a particular significance to the last and the first words of the Gita. When combined, it reads “mama dharma“, a literal translation of which is “my justice“.
The essence of the Gita is captured in verse 66 of chapter 18 (sarva dharmaan parityajya), which urges man to refrain from making judgments, and lead a full life by considering all his actions as leading to a surrender to God (maam ekam sharanam vraja). When seen in this light, the term mama dharma, argue some, must be interpreted as Lord Krishna telling His listener(s) “My life is my justice.”
I have come to realize that we spend an inordinate amount of time and energy in judging others, and weighing the theoretical aspects of problem. Consequently, we have very little time to act. This restricts our potential, and we end up sensing the gap between what could have been and what really is.
An idea that is succinctly put forth by Swami Vivekananda as follows…
“Don’t come here any more if you think any task too difficult. Through the grace of the Lord, everything becomes easy of achievement. Your duty is to serve the poor and the distressed without distinction of caste and creed. What business have you to consider the fruits of your action? Your duty is to go on working, and everything will set itself right in time, and work by itself. My method of work is to construct, and not to destroy that which is already existing….You are all intelligent boys and profess to be my disciples — tell me what you have done. Couldn’t you give away one life for the sake of others? Let the reading of Vedanta and the practice of meditation and the like be left for the next life! Let this body go in the service of others — and then I shall know you have not come to me in vain!”
(Thanks, Gokul, for the quote.)
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