Sunday, January 31, 2010

Life Lessons And Books

To paraphrase a cliche, some books like people come into our life for a reason, season or lifetime. They are like connections that will happen if and only when they are supposed to. A line from a volume of poetry that you were going to return unread, something that jumps at you while browsing through a random pop-psychology book selling at a Dollar Store or even a the words out of a character's mouth in a work of fiction or a movie - they can all become imbued with the deepest significance in our lives depending on timing. At a time when I struggled with having to stand up in defiance to someone who was close to me and hurt me relentlessly, I recalled a line from the Kathamrita :
“One should hiss to bad persons to frighten them away, so that they may not harm you later on. One must not inject poison into them and injure them." 
Some years later, I would  read The Road Less Traveled where the author talks about anger and the reason to regulate and have the ability to direct it in ways appropriate to the situation : 
"To function successfully in our complex world it is necessary for us to possess the capacity not only to express our anger but also not to express it. Moreover, we must possess the capacity to express our anger in different ways. At times, for instance, it is necessary to express it only after much deliberation and self-evaluation. At other times it is more to our benefit to express it immediately and spontaneously. Sometimes it is best to express it coldly and calmly; at other times loudly and hotly." 

At the time of reading this book I was going through a phase where I needed to accept "Life is difficult" on several different levels and try to cope with old resentments that had resurfaced. Whereas the "hiss" had sufficed the first time, I needed a more direct approach now and felt wrong about feeling so angry in the first place. I remembered some Buddhist writing on the subject that cautioned repeatedly against harboring anger. The Buddha said :

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."

I was no longer sure if being angry was the right or wrong response to my particular situation, if to expel it in a choreographed manner as Peck suggested was the way to go or if should let go of the hot coal before it burned me.Demonstrating the ability to work up a fury - the hiss I thought Sri Ramakrishna suggested, was simply not working out anymore. While I felt frustrated at the lack of clear direction, I realized that I had read what I had read at critical points of time in my life. They were books for a reason, season or a lifetime. It was up to me to slot them correctly and I was not quite up to that task.

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