Once, Swami Rama gave a demonstration in front of a large class. He drew a horizontal line on the chalkboard and asked the class the following question: “Is there anyone in the room who can make this line appear shorter without erasing it?” The students thought and thought. They concluded that the only possible way to reduce the size of the line would be to erase part of it from either side. Thus, they told Swamiji, “No, there is no way to reduce the size of the line without erasing any of it.”
Swamiji then proceeded to draw another, much longer, horizontal line on the board, a few inches above the previously drawn line. “Now,” he asked. “Hasn’t the first line become shorter in comparison to the new, longer line? Doesn’t it appear quite short?” One does not have to erase a piece of the first line in order to make it appear shorter. One simply has to compare it to a longer line.
In life, in the rush to get ahead, in the rush to prove ourselves, to make a name for ourselves, we frequently resort to criticizing, condemning and badmouthing others. In order to make ourselves look better, we put other people down. So many times we tell examples of the shortcomings of our colleagues so that we – in comparison – will appear better, or we criticize those with whom we are in competition.
However, this is not the way to get ahead or make a name for ourselves. Let us not try to diminish others in order to look good ourselves. That is like erasing the line to make it shorter, simply so we will look bigger in comparison. The way to get ahead in life should not be at the cost of others. Instead of bringing others down, let us raise ourselves up. Instead of cutting others, let us learn how to grow.
It is very difficult in life to accept our own responsibility, our own mistakes. It is much easier for us to condemn others, criticize others, judge others and blame others. We rarely realize how frequently our own actions contribute to a negative situation. It is so much easier to simply blame others.
A woman once went to the doctor. She told the doctor, “My husband talks all night long in his sleep. You must give me some medicine for him to make him stop talking in his sleep.” The doctor gave the woman a prescription for medicine and told her, “If you take this medicine every day, your husband will stop talking in his sleep.”
But the woman was shocked, “Why must I take the medicine, doctor? It is my husband who has the problem. I am not sick. My husband is the sick one who talks in his sleep. It is for him you must prescribe medicine.”
The doctor explained to her as follows: “Ma’am, your husband talks in his sleep because you don’t let him talk during the day time. Every time he tries to say something you correct him, belittle him or tell him to be quiet. So, he has no choice other than to talk in the night. The medicine will make you be quiet during the day so your husband can say what’s on his mind. Then he won’t have to talk in his sleep anymore!”
Whenever we are in a difficult situation, a frustrating situation or a challenging situation, let us examine what we can do to solve the problem. Let us examine what role our own actions may have played in bringing about the current circumstances. Let us work WITH others to get ahead, rather than work AGAINST others. Let us cooperate instead of compete.
Indian culture teaches us “milaanaa not mitaanaa” and “journa not tourna” [bring together, don’t cut. Unite, don’t break]. But, don’t break what? Don’t break others’ minds, hearts and spirits with our selfishness. When we push ourselves ahead at the expense of others, we naturally hurt them in the process. We break their spirit, their enthusiasm and their self-esteem. Heights of success must not be attained through lowering others. Rather, we must climb and climb higher and higher to fulfill our own divine potential, to live our own divine Dharma.
When Bhagwan Rama sent Angadji to Ravana in Lanka in order to bring Sitaji back, he told Angadji, “Kaaj Hamaara taasu hita hoi.” [Fulfill your mission in rescuing Sita, but do not hurt Ravana in the process. Just try to make him understand that he should peacefully return her.] This is the Divine way: do your duty, do your best, fulfill your obligations, but don’t hurt anyone in the process, either physically or emotionally.
We must dedicate our lives to growing as much as we can, to learning as much as we can, to serving as much as we can and to getting closer and closer to the ultimate goal of Union with the Almighty. We must not let competition, jealousy, complexes or petty complaints stand in the way of our great Mission.