About Making Our Own Future

All the strength and succour you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future.

– Swami Vivekananda

The Ramakrishna Mission at Vacoas has organized its annual book sales exhibition, and unfortunately I have not had time to visit it as I have always done.

Its founder was Swami Vivekananda, and I have been reading his Collected Works and going through some of his quotations.

The one cited above applies to individuals as well as countries, of course, for Swami Vivekananda always meant his messages for mankind in general, although he always emphasized the individual. Quite naturally of course because if we have to change mankind we have to begin with man.

The paradigm of modern times has been heavily based on Sigmund Freud’s concept of the mind, which is basically that it is a store of repressed urges that cannot wait to get out and take hold of our lives. We are hapless victims of these impulses, and in order to understand ourselves we need to undergo psycho-analysis. This will reveal the devious rages that drive us, and by understanding them – during costly couch sessions – we should be able to reorder our lives.

The predicament of our present so-called civilization with screaming warmongers at the helm is evidence that this method has failed. Urges continue to dominate our lives.

One of the major works of Freud was entitled ‘The psychopathology of daily life.’ If we think of life as a disease to be cured instead of an opportunity to express the beautiful side of our nature, is it any wonder that we should be tottering on the brink of collective madness?

In ‘Learn to live,’ a publication of the Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai, we read: ‘This is the best of times and perhaps also the worst. On the one hand the marvellous advance of science and technology is showering on us comforts and luxuries galore… The reverse of the coin, however, is terribly grim. Mindless violence stalks the world. Crime rules the roost. The exploitation of the “have-nots” by the “haves” is terrifying. At all levels shameless corruption has become a way of life.’

These lines were written in 2000, but they could as well have been written yesterday, when we realize the chilling realities that they describe and that are being played out around the world and at home too daily, right now in fact, and for how long more nobody seems to know.

Unless…

Unless we change our mindset and our course towards MAD: mutually assured destruction. ‘Learn to live’ is particularly concerned about and addressed to the rising generations who are ‘caught in this whirpool,’ and whose greatest needs of the hour are ‘proper ideas, inspiring models and appropriate guidance.’

Leaders who rule the world today are locked in a seemingly unending spiral of violence. Through the bloody clash of the societies over which they preside or tele-control, triggered and sustained by the monster of terrorism that arises from their dark interiors, they are dragging along with them the rest of the world which wants to live in peace. All the billions that are being squandered to destroy people, countries and trust, and to constantly threaten each other could have been put to better use to feed, clothe, house, save from disease and treat the nearly two billion people who live on less than one dollar a day.

On the local scene, where are the role models that we can recommend to the youth? They are to be found neither in the highest forum, the National Asssembly, where examples of gutter language and cheap jibes are regularly reported, and which prevent debate at a level which would do Mauritian citizens proud. Nor are they to be found amongst those whose underhand and criminal dealings are hidden by the veneer of their educational and professional backgrounds, an element that would lead the youth to expect from them a standard of behaviour that they would wish to emulate. The tragedy and irony is that such people are found in the key sectors of our society, from the liberal professions, the banks and companies to providers of the multitude of public and private services on which the foundations of a smooth-running and just society depend.

To stop the rot from turning into deadly gangrene we need to understand ourselves as human beings whose essential nature is goodness. We have allowed this goodness to be damped down by layers of expectations and desires that, sure enough, arise in our minds. But whereas Freud stopped at the mind, we must go beyond to what controls the mind, the buddhi which can discriminate not only between right and wrong but also between the good and the bad when properly trained, that is, fed with good thoughts and filtered information especially that which is freely available on the internet. It is only with this level of understanding and knowledge that we shall be able to tap the ‘strength and succour’ that is within ourselves, change ourselves as individuals for the better and impact upon others positively, and collectively prepare the future for our coming generations.

The cliché GIGO applies here: garbage in garbage out. We have seen how the minds of many young people around the world are being fed with radicalizing, ideological garbage that is leading to terrorist violence, resulting in the destruction of innocent lives in so many countries. On the other hand, at the more mundane level there is an overload of consumerist information that builds up to excessive levels at this time of the year, a time of frenzied buying and spending. We need the discriminating power to spend wisely, and be wary of indulgence in matters of food and drink in particular. Enjoyment does not mean that we must ruin our bodies through excessive and improper consumption.

If we care to reflect but a moment, we will realise that ‘making our own future’ starts by caring for our physical body and feeding our minds also with right thoughts, for a sound mind makes for a sound body: mens sana in corpore sano. Something to keep… in mind as rush towards the festive season…

 


* Published in print edition on 6  December 2013

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