Diwali is so entrenched in the collective Indian culture, that over time, we seem to have forgotten what it truly stands for. Diwali is to celebrate the return of Lord Ram back from exile.
What is invariably lost as we look on to Gods is the lesson they have been trying to teach us. Lord Ram had no need to go to exile, go through all the trials and tribulations he did, he could have put his foot down at any point, he could have revolted, he could have resigned to circumstance, he could have simply complained. But he did not. Instead, he chose to take things in his stride. The exile became his epic. I do not agree with all his decisions, especially the one to exile Sita.
This Diwali, pause for a few moments and figure out where you can emulate Ram within. Here is my take on the epic of my life.
Epic: The story of the rest of my life
I have no complaints about my life so far. A blessed childhood, good, strong foundation in faith and morals. An amazing wife and a wonderful son. I am healthy, my family is around and I have the love of loved ones. In short, I don't have any excuses :)
Sure I might have lost my way a couple of times, asked the wrong questions, made the wrong assumptions, fooled myself now and then, made a few mistakes, but they made me who I am. And here I am, about to pen the rest of the story of my life. And I can tell you one thing, it is going to be epic.
But this Epic is not for you, it’s for me.
In this, I will do the things I possibly can.
Some hard earned lessons will be put to good use. Mistakes of the past will accompany me as teachers into the future. So what is it that will make this epic? The fact that I will keep moving forward.
So here are what I have learned from my mistakes and the teachers I bring with me to the future.
Become the Elephant
Criticism from others would always affect me deeply, it still does. Back in college, one day Dad saw worry on my face, and knew what was up as perhaps only fathers can. He could sense the self-doubt and he knew the thoughts in my mind were not mine, but others had managed to slide them in without my knowledge (or so I would like to think, but I believe regardless of how they get in or from whom, they always come in with our knowledge and consent). These thoughts were my kryptonite, they knew it, I did not. “Ever see an elephant walk down the road?” he asked. A nod was my answer, “Every dog barks at it, but it never effects the elephant. He knows he is the elephant, he just walks on”.
I have always known, now I consciously choose to become the Elephant.
Sikhism is not just my religion, it is my faith, and my guide. The first verse of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji starts with a description of the attributes of God, among them that He is Self-Created, and free from the cycle of life and death, that He is Eternal. But the two that are the most relatable for me, "Nirbhau, Nirvair". My simple understanding of two of them is “Without fear, without enmity”.
While researching, I learned that "Nirbhau" means unfathomable or immeasurable. Rather than dilute the significance, it reinforces it. If God is unfathomable or immeasurable, then by definition, so are we. Born Infinite. Nirvair, I learned, is even deeper. It does not mean no enmity, it means the absence of any ill will or rather, pure love.
If you think about it, Nirbhau and Nirvair is a great first step for your Epic. For me, I act in truth and honesty, and all love to my Self, and my fellow beings, and so I have no fear.
Thought and action
Thinking through an action is good, letting thought block the action is not. I am still learning this. Over time, thought has blocked more and more actions for me. Rather than serve me to act right, it has paralyzed me from acting at all, out of fear, consequences, ridicule, or even success, whatever. Thing is, I did not act when I should have. I was not always this way. I prided myself in my ability to act in situation. Time to go back to that. My thoughts once again are now subservient to me, they will do as I command, guiding me to right action, at the right time.
Far too many times I have been guilty of not seeing something to the end. Of letting off the pressure and losing momentum. That happens no more. From now on, I see things to the end, and that is that. They will be complete, lessons will be learned, and ideas will see the light of day.
These are my lessons, my mistakes now guide my beliefs. I am stronger for them. Are you? Ready or not, the epic begins now.
One last note
P.S. One of the hardest acts for me has been to be openly acknowledge what I am capable of. Some of it due to fear of failure, some of it due to fear of success. I think we are conditioned in humility, to be smaller. I now know that is the wrong way to go about life. Nirbhau and Nirvair will not let your pride turn to arrogance, and your ambition will never rule you. They will ensure you remain true to your purpose and remain committed to your higher self.