From the author of the bestselling 7 Mindsets for Success, Happiness and Fulfilment
We all wish to be happy, to do meaningful work, to find fulfilment and success and lead a full and rich life. To achieve this goal, we keep working on enhancing our external resources and adjusting our external circumstances. But in the process, we miss out that happiness does not depend on the externals at all. It is all dependent on the kind of emotions that we harbour within ourselves.
The Richest but Poorest
We always come across people in this world who have money, fame, power and yet when we look at their personal lives, they are complete failures. I am reminded of Howard Hughes who was, in his time, one of the richest people in the world. He once went to Las Vegas and stayed in the penthouse suite of Desert Inn. After a few weeks, the manager got sick of him and wanted to kick him out. Hughes purchased the entire hotel. He liked to see old movies at night on the hotel TV. There was no such TV station in Las Vegas at that time. So he just purchased a TV station and arranged for those movies.
We always come across people in this world who have money, fame, power and yet when we look at their personal lives, they are complete failures.
However around his middle age, his mind went out of control; he had a neurotic fear that germs were attacking him. He would lock himself up in his room, which he considered to be germ-free. He was so scared of germs attacking him from the outside. He washed his hands thousand times a day. If any servant in his household fell sick, he would have his whole wardrobe burnt. In this state, he imprisoned himself in the last years of his life and died extremely miserable.
The Mother of Orphans
On the other hand, we come across people who are externally in difficult circumstances, facing severe hardships, challenges and austerities. Yet internally, they find great fulfilment and purpose in their life. Some of you may be familiar with a lady called Sindhutai Sapkal. She was living in eastern, Maharashtra, in the district of Wardha, which is a part of the cotton belt with very arid lands.
When she was a six-year-old, she used to take her family’s buffaloes for grazing. When the buffaloes were immersed in the lake, she would run to school where her teacher would beat her because she came late. When she returned to the buffaloes, the neighbours would beat her because the buffaloes had grazed their grass.
As eleven year old, she got married to a much elder man. From him, she had three children. When the fourth child was in her womb, she became an activist. The cow dung mafia was exploiting the women of that area. She complained to the district collector and that annoyed the leader of the mafia gang who went and told her husband that she had an illicit affair with him and that their fourth child was actually his. The husband got so swayed by what he heard. He took her to the cowshed and beat her so much that she fell under the cow and the cow started protecting her.
She delivered her fourth child and went back to her parent’s house who rejected her. To protect herself from exploitation, she started living in the cremation ground. Frustrated with her life, she thought of committing suicide. However when she was about to do it, she heard the cry of a little child close to the railway track in the railway station. She started giving solace to that child and found great satisfaction in it. That gave her an idea. Could she find meaning and purpose in life by taking care of the orphaned children in that railway station?
Slowly, she started increasing the children under her. She started begging to take care of them. Others came to know and they started coming forward to help and in a few years, she became known as the Mother of Orphans. She parented over a thousand orphans. Many of them became PhDs, doctors and reputed engineers.
The Naughtiest Child
She says the crowning moment in her life came when her old husband who had become a derelict by then came to her for shelter. She did not harbour any bitterness. She welcomed him as her child and she says that he is her naughtiest child now. She was a lady who underwent such extreme hardship. Yet, she found the most important thing in life—a purpose to live for and fulfilment and happiness in what she does and what she is.
Howard Hughes had everything and yet made a mess of his life. Sindhutai Sapkal had practically nothing and yet she succeeded. Today, she is given so many awards and felicitations. The answer lies within—managing our minds, thoughts and emotions. The mind is such a powerful instrument. In the worst of conditions, if your mind is calm and composed, you will experience celestial bliss. On the other hand, living in the midst of the most opulent luxury, if the mind is disturbed and agitated, you will experience the torment of hell.
Howard Hughes had everything and yet made a mess of his life. Sindhutai Sapkal had practically nothing and yet she succeeded.
Conquer Mind: the Double-Edged Sword
Two thousand years ago, Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya asked, “Who shall influence and conquer the world?”
He also gave the answer: “The person who has conquered his or her own mind.”
Thousands of years before Shankaracharya, in the Panchadasi, it was stated that mind is the cause of bondage, but the mind can be the cause of liberation as well. That is why the Bhagavad Gita states that mind is like a two-edged sword. It can be your best friend and it can be your worst enemy. The controlled mind which becomes your servant helps you as your best asset and the uncontrolled mind becomes the worst enemy sitting right within you.
Within and Without
In our education system, we learn so many sciences, but practically each and every science is related to the world on the outside, which is very necessary. We need to understand the laws of the external world and to have the ability to harness it. However, we miss out on how to manage our inner world.
The choices you make will depend on the values you have installed within yourself. The values will depend upon the beliefs that you have got within like your belief about the purpose of life and the value of a human being. This inner world got neglected in the western civilization and their model and perspective of looking at humankind.
On the other hand, our Indian civilization emphasizes this Inner world. I often tell managers, and when I go to business schools, I say to the students there, “You learn how to manage machines, finances, market environments and human resources, but have you learned to manage yourself?” So this management of us is fundamental to our effectiveness as a manager. The attitude, passion and inspiration you bring to your work and all of that requires managing your inner world.
Sometimes the Indian civilization focuses too much on the inside to the neglect of the outside. Our Vedas say that we need two branches of knowledge to make our life a success—one, material knowledge to understand the external world and utilise it for our purpose and two, the spiritual knowledge that helps us understand our inner world and develop good attitudes, beliefs and values which will help us become successful and effective. Harmony and synthesis of both is essential in life.