EXCUSES ARE NOT REASONS
“Do the cows in your town give only milk (for your coffee) but do not discharge dung (for cow dung cakes to be used in your rituals)?” – This was the question1 with which Swami Chandrasekhara Bharathi teased a Vedanta scholar once. This scholar was proud that he was giving lots of discourses on Shankara’s commentaries on Geeta and Upanishads but, when the famed Shringeri pontiff asked him if he was doing his “upāsana” also with the same zeal, said apologetically, “I live in a big city where cow dung cakes are very difficult to get!”
Our likes and dislikes create certain habits in our way of living and we have many excuses to offer when somebody points out that we are not doing what we ought to do. Excuses are not reasons. They are rather false logic behind which we hide. We justify the wrongs that we do using excuses; we justify our inability to do right things using excuses.
Excuse me, I have to appeal to you, dear reader, to give up your excuses, do ‘what ought to be done’ and give up ‘what ought to be avoided’.
“Do not come under their sway,” exhorts Lord Sri Krishna in the Geeta2, “for they are your enemies on the spiritual path.”
The Upanishads warn us that we generally tend to go for ‘what is pleasant’ and let go of opportunities to do ‘what is good’. An ice cream is most welcome even after we have eaten a heavy meal but 20 minutes of meditation is ‘better to postpone’ even when it is the morning of a holiday! We settle for comforts and neglect duty. Heavy is the price we end up paying. The Kathopanishad3 remarks, “Those who choose pleasure and comfort get deprived of worthy benefits in life”.
All this is not to condemn anybody. It is not about finding fault with people who are living happily. People must enjoy life. We are not at all against movies, popcorn and ice cream! All such advice is to be taken in the right spirit. While enjoyments do have a place in life, no one can deny that life is much more that ‘eat, drink and make merry’. Everyone, even the most pleasure-seeking one, acknowledges the limitations of a lifestyle centred in pleasure. We give up the ‘good things of life’ to savour the bliss of inner peace, not caused by any object. This bliss is not ‘because of anything’ but ‘in spite of many things’.
Spiritual maturity helps us to be at peace even when our wealth vanishes, health suffers and relationships break down.
So let us give up our excuses, and with enough reason to do so, let us live a life of dharma4.
1 page 120, The Life and Times of H H Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi by Prof. N Nanjunda Sastry
2 tayor-na vasham-āgacchet, tau hi asya paripanthinau - Geeta 3.34
3 hiyate arthād ya u preyo vrineete – Katha Upanishad 1.2.1
4 dharma here means righteous, virtuous conduct in both public and private life.
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