Diwali fever is slowly settling down. Most people who celebrate the Festival of Lights honor the notion it carries, which is that good wins over evil and darkness paves the way for light. Interestingly, when I first posted about Diwali on Instagram and talked about its significance, a Jewish friend reached out. She said that the lights of Hanukkah also symbolize victory of good or evil.
Come to think of it, several religious texts, and old cultures share stories that inspire us to do the right thing even in our darkest moments. Because we are told that in the end…there is karmic balance, and the universe keeps a tab. The law of karma, as the yoga tradition describes it, is basically the law of cause and effect. It’s like the Biblical aphorism, “As you sow, so shall you reap.”
I believe that when you do the right thing, it matters. If to no one else but at least to you. That said, I am as much of a realist as I am an eternal optimist. I am aware that adversity hits us all the time — be it in our personal or professional life — no matter our deeds.
A client asked me recently: “Sweta, how do you find the motivation to do the right thing when you know bad people are winning? When I see them being manipulative, convincing everyone else that they are the victims, spreading lies about me, and then ghosting me?” This person couldn’t sleep, felt agitated frequently, and found themselves snacking on desserts at odd hours.
I often find answers to life situations in the yoga sutras. The story that my client shared isn’t that of an exception. We have all been hurt; we have all hurt others (even if unintentionally). Fact is that bad people often win. Not everyone will act with honor and consciousness. Let no one fool you otherwise. The news and politics of the world have reiterated that racists, homophobes, psychopaths, and xenophobes may thrive in life while a good soul might not be able to afford three meals a day. We will encounter people we’d never want to meet.
But you must ask yourself what matters to you! Will you allow other people’s opinion of you to define who you are and how you navigate your life?
In the world of yoga and Ayurveda, we talk a lot about methods of attaining calmness and stability because they are the goal of life. Yoga asanas to bring steadiness in the mind-body and to help you stay focused. Foods recommended by Ayurveda to bring your doshas back to balance. Meditation to help discover inner peace and help uncover your center. What these ancient sciences also remind us of is that the power is all within us to withstand difficult times and not alter our behavior because of a few bad interactions.
In sutra 1.33, Patanjali gives us basic guidelines that help us deal with four types of relationships: “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and equanimity toward the non-virtuous, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”
It might not always be easy because doing the right thing isn’t always easy. But doing the right thing is how you become the person you want to be. If we reacted and adjusted our behavior in response to how others are with us, we’d be like headless chickens. Happy, angry, neurotic, empathetic, caustic, negative, positive, and the whole range of emotions drowning our inner peace. We can’t make others understand when they are doing bad, hurtful things. But with these teachings, we can protect our inner harmony regardless of externalities.
Patanjali reminds us that the yoga sutras don’t recommend ignoring harmful behavior. But they do remind us that our goal is to sustain and nourish the harmony and the good within. Focus on what’s important.
“If we only look within, we will see the Light as if we were seeing our own image in a mirror.” ~ Sri S. Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
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