The Powers That Shape Your Life and Destiny

Thinking and Perception

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by Jayaram V

Your life and destiny, and your peace and happiness, primarily depend upon the following three important factors.

1. Your disposition or essential nature (adhyatmikam). This is what you make happen with your thoughts, abilities and actions

2. External conditions (bhautikam). This is what others may do to you by their thoughts and actions with or without your involvement.

3. Acts of God, fate or providence (daivikam). This is what happens to you because of fate, karma, or the actions of God, divinities and invisible forces.

Internal conditions (adhyatmikam)

Most of the conditions in your life are self-created. External circumstances do play a role, but if you focus upon them solely you are bound to feel helpless and disappointed frequently because they are difficult to control or change. Many people focus on their circumstances rather than their abilities and talents to change their lives and feel frustrated. The truth is you can make a difference in your life by your own thoughts and actions. You can learn to think differently and choose differently. You can use your strengths rather than focusing on your shortcomings. You have adaptability and many other abilities which you can use to deal with the problems and obstacles you face in your life. For example your happiness, peace and wellbeing depend upon many internal factors such as the following. By paying attention to them and fine tuning them to your nature, you can experience profound peace and happiness in your life. The yogis learn to be indifferent to everything by stabilizing their minds. You may not achieve that level of perfection leading a worldly life. However, you can exercise some control over your thoughts and emotions by paying attention to the following and knowing more about yourself.

Thoughts. What thoughts dominate your mind mostly?

Desires. What drives you and motivates you?

Beliefs. Do your beliefs empower you or depress you?

Emotions. What emotions dominate your mind and why?

Responses. How do you respond to situations that provoke fear, anger, anxiety, greed, envy, love and pride.

Preferences. What you like and what your prefer to do in life?

Prejudices. What drives you crazy for no fault of others? What are your unverified beliefs and assumptions? What are the things you associate automatically in your mind without giving proper thought based on gender, race, color, caste, nationality, appearance, age and so on?

Resolve. How strong is your resolve and how often you make a decision and implement it.

Virtues. Do you believe in the value of virtues? How often do you lie to and cheat your close friends and relations, business associates, customers or the government?

Discipline. Can you stick to a plan until the end?

Knowledge. Do you have the right knowledge of the things and people you deal with?

Skills. Do you have the skills to perform you job and do you try to improve them continuously?

Actions. Do you take responsibility for your life and those who depend upon you, and perform actions that are necessary for your and their welfare even if they are difficult to perform?

External circumstances (bhautikam)

It is true that our happiness and success does not always depend upon internal conditions only. External factors also play a role. We cannot live without the help of others, without interacting with others and without depending upon others. We are always part of something that is bigger than us, family, society, country, community or the world to which we belong. We cannot escape from their influence or the conditioning they impose upon us. They shape your life, beliefs, thinking and values. You may break away from your family, but a part of your family values and beliefs always live in you as your own. You may migrate to another country, but the memories of the country in which you are born remain in your consciousness for the rest of your life. We are intricately related to our environment as we are to our own identities. Countless people help you to become what you are today. Most of them you do not even know, Take for example the items you buy from a grocery store. Imagine how many people might have worked hard right from the raw material stage to make those items available to you in a finished packing. Apart from family, country and society, the following are some of the external factors that shape your life: teachers parents and grandparents, friends, relations, strangers, employers, books and films, role models, government, professionals, hospitals, schools, technology, wars, religion, institutions, law and order, pets, nature, pathogens, manmade disasters, and geographical conditions.

Acts of God (daivikam)

Luck, fate, natural calamities and unexpected events also play a role in our lives. You may attribute them to your past actions (karma) or pure luck precipitated by invisible forces (adrishtam). Sometimes situations may develop in your life for which you do not find obvious explanations. Every year millions of people lose their homes and their near and dear in earthquakes, wild fires, floods, cyclones and hurricanes. Sometimes these events brush past you without harming you and sometimes they just ram right into the lives and homes of unfortunate people, destroying their hopes, dreams and all the hard work they put in. Many events and coincidences happen in our lives for which we have no ready explanation, such as chance meetings with complete strangers who may end us as our intimate friends or life partners, finding a dream job, a right solution to a nagging problem or a miracle cure one thought would never be possible. Some of these events make people happy while some give great distress. Logically we do not know why they happen. However our scriptures suggest that they happen because of the following: past actions (karma), our own thoughts and hidden desires, grace of God, Nature, intervention of gods and demons, and fate (vidhi or niyati)

Three rules for for peace and stability

Our happiness depends greatly upon our ability to reach our goals and satisfy our desires. Alternatively we may find happiness by controlling our desires and cultivating detachment. Both approaches are effective and have their own consequences. One is the path by which one becomes increasingly involved with the world and Nature in pursuit of happiness and fulfillment and the other by following which one becomes disengaged from the world and lightens up both mentally and spiritually, leading to complete freedom from attachments. Both approaches have their merits and demerits. In this article, I would like to touch upon the three fundamental ways in which you can reclaim control over your emotions and experience peace and happiness within the limitations to which we are subject. I am not saying that you will experience supreme and permanent bliss with these, but I promise you that if you implement them sincerely, you will remain in control of your life and manage your reactions and responses intelligently and appropriately according to the situation.

1. Take action to stay in control. When you are driving a vehicle you cannot relax and leave the steering wheel to itself. You have do your part to remain on the road and drive in the right direction. In life certain actions are imperative. You cannot sit idly and let life pass by. You have to do your part to stay in control of your life and keep yourself and your family free from harm and danger. You have to perform your daily actions (nitya karmas) such as going to work, keeping your house clean, eating healthy food, doing exercise, improving your knowledge, educating your children, taking care of your job, spending some quality time with your family, and keeping your morale high. These are actions that you cannot simply transfer to others or expect them to perform, unless you want to be led by others and become a burden to them. There are things which you cannot ignore, such as your education, your academic achievements, your skills, mastery in a particular field, knowledge, intelligence, virtues, friends, reputation, honor, the help you have rendered, compassion you have shown, or the merit you have gained through your actions. These are the things you make possible solely through your personal effort. You may already have them or you can achieve them with effort, faith and confidence. So take what you can from the vessel of abundance God has poured into this world. Reclaim your share. Take what you deserve and what you can, never losing the importance of virtue or the law of karma. Take risks wherever necessary without harming others or damaging your future. This is the green zone, the zone of your influence and control. Do whatever you can, honoring the rules of life and making the most out of it. Share your success, knowledge, and riches with others to the extent you can afford and you believe is necessary. You are the master in this zone. Do what it takes to be the king of your little kingdom, preparing yourself to enter into that greater kingdom of God where immortals live.

2. Seek the help of others. Our lives coalesce and overlap those of others. There are things we cannot do entirely by ourselves. We need the help and cooperation of others. We need guidance and advise from experts. We need support and encouragement from people who matter in our lives. We need to take certain people into confidence and keep them informed of what we intend to do and why we need to do them. We have to build trust, cooperation and harmony with those with whom we spend most of our time. We have to acknowledge people who help us in our lives, teachers who educate us, friends who help us in need, critics who keep us in touch with reality, relations who remind us of our responsibilities, spiritual masters who reveal our ultimate purpose, government bodies who protect us and society in general which facilitates our survival and identity. Many people hesitate to seek the help of others. The truth is we are always dependent upon others and we  should always remain grateful to the world and society for the help we receive. Countless people help us all the time without our knowing, to keep our economy going, to keep our environment clean, to protect us from crime and violence, to save us from ill health, to provide us with basic amenities and make us feel safe and secure. When we realize how much help we receive from them, it becomes our responsibility to live in gratitude and help others if possible. Thus, for actions that you cannot perform all by yourself, seek the help and cooperation of reliable and trustworthy people who can help you realize your goals.

3. Acknowledge your limitations and surrender to things you cannot change. There are certain things in your life which you cannot change, for example, your parents, your gender, your race, your country of origin, your physical appearance, your mother-tongue, aging and sickness, and your blood relations. There is no point in resisting these or blaming God or others for the things that have been given to you by birth. Accept them with equanimity (samatvam) for what they are and get along with your life. Manage what you can and accept what you cannot. This simple philosophy will help you focus on the essential aspects of your life rather than worrying about things you cannot change. There are certain things which will never change or which may never happen, however hard you may try. There are things, in fact many, over which you have no control. For example, you cannot stop death. You cannot prevent aging. You cannot totally remove suffering from your life. You cannot reform this world. You cannot put sense into the minds of certain people who have determined to destroy themselves and others. Instead of feeling frustrated and resentful towards them, accept the reality that you cannot control everything and your own happiness lies in letting them go. It is important to be realistic in your expectations and not to be delusional about your abilities and accomplishments. Many people refuse to accept the truth about themselves and their conditions and live in a state of self-denial. In fact we all do it in some degree, because our mind plays tricks upon us and deceive us into believing what we want to believe in. There is no point in indulging in delusional acts such as trying to join the earth with the sky. Instead you focus on your strengths and opportunities and see what you can do to make yourself live according to your highest vision. Think of what you can do, what strengths you have and what you can accomplish in the short time that you spend here upon earth.

 We do not have answers to all our problems. No one can live your life for you. At some point of time in your life you will realize that no one really cares whether you are alive or dead. If you happen to see your friends they greet you and if you do not appear for a while they will forget you and move on. This is life. You know how you and the world grow apart as you age and enter into the senior category. Your life is your responsibility and the solutions have to be specific to your situation. You may apply the principles of wisdom garnered by others through their experiences, but you have to devise your own specific ways based on them to find viable solutions to the problems in your life. If you do not own responsibility for your life, you are bound to feel unhappy and resentful towards others. Everyone in this world carries certain baggage of woes and everyone to some extent lives in a state of delusion and self-denial. Your memories, your knowledge and reason conspire against you to keep you misinformed so that you will not harm yourself with depressing thoughts and stop enjoying life. So they (your memories) let you write a story about yourself in such a manner that many facts are glossed over and only those that are pleasing to you and acceptable to your self-esteem remain in your active memory. Therefore do not trust your surface memory or the judgments you make based upon them. Do not give yourself away to surface emotions and surface thoughts for they may be lies created by your mind to protect you from negativity and depression. You have to think deeply and challenge the underlying assumptions hidden in all the important decisions you make about your life. The Bhagavadgita says that you are your own friend and you are your own enemy. You are your friend when you work for your happiness and welfare and you are your enemy when you try to sabotage your life and your chances of happiness by entertaining depressing and self-destructive thoughts. Use these three anti-depressants I have mentioned before to take control of your life and emotions.  Do what is within your capacity and what you can control; take the help of others wherever possible and leave the rest to God with surrender and firm belief that everything happens for a reason and for your good. Duty, dependence and devotion, bring these golden principles into your life and improve your chances of finding peace within and freedom from oppressive and self-destructive thoughts.

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