May 2017

Both rain and sunshine are needed to make a rainbow. Both joy and sorrow are needed to make life truly beautiful and colourful.J P Vaswani

Mere rain cannot produce a rainbow; nor can mere shine. A combination is needed. So too, if our lives need to be beautiful and colourful, a combination of joys and sorrows is unavoidable.

But the majority of us think that life is beautiful and colourful only when there is joy, and therefore we are allergic to sorrows.

If we reflect a little about our own life’s experiences, we can easily conclude that joys taste sweeter only in the presence of sorrows.

Food tastes delicious only for the hungry. Water tastes nectarine only for the thirsty. Success tastes fulfilling only after repeated failures. Union tastes sweeter only after a long separation from the beloved. Health brings joy only after a prolonged illness. Light is appreciated only after fumbling in the darkness. Praise and honour appear soothing only after disrespect and criticism. The shady tree is a five-star treatment only for the one scorched by the summer sun. Lost-and-found things appear a lot more precious.

Even life is valued more only after a near-death experience.

After the Sept 11 attack at the Twin Towers in the U.S, survivors were invited to share their experiences. All of them bubbled with joy and excitement while narrating how they escaped death by a whisker.

One person survived that day because his son started kindergarten and hence he was late; one lady got late because her alarm clock didn’t work; one missed the bus; one spilt food on her clothes and had to take time to change; one was late because the car did not start; one old man was late due to traffic jam; a youngster was late because he did not find the car keys!!

It is always the shocks in life that remind us that we are living!!

Sorrows and failures teach us greater lessons in life. They make us humble, introspective, and compassionate. They remind us of the insignificance of our ego. They make us realise the imperishable nature of the world. They make us hold on to God with greater tenacity. Sorrows make us an ardent seeker of liberation.

The sorrow of impending death made King Pareekshit attain liberation in a mere seven days. The sorrow of Ratnakara (the decoit) transformed him into saint Valmiki. The sorrow of Valmiki resulted in Ramayana. The sorrow of Arjuna resulted in Bhagavad Geeta. The sorrow of Veda Vyasa resulted in Shreemad Bhagavatham.

 Sorrows and failures have their own place in making life beautiful.

It is always a crisis which creates heroes. Heroes of India’s freedom struggle were born because of India’s slavery. Even in other fields like wars, sports and politics, heroes emerge only during a crisis. Necessity is always the mother of invention.

Life is balanced only amidst joys and sorrows. In nature also we find that crops exposed to all weather conditions – rain and shine, winter and summer – bring out greater yield. In life too, pairs of opposites alone help us to evolve and to grow.

Ugaadi is celebrated as the first day of the Year in Andhra, Karnataka and Telangana. During this festival, a chutney-like dish is prepared which gives all flavours – sweet, sour, tangy and bitter. This festive Hindu food is made from tamarind paste, neem flowers, sweet jaggery, salt, and mango. The philosophy behind this preparation is that in life also we will have all kinds of experiences – sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter.

We must prepare our minds to accept everything cheerfully as a prasad from God.

The world-famous violinist Itzhak Perlman suffered from polio as a child and ever since has been in a wheelchair. One evening during a concert, when he had only started, there was a loud snap. A string on his violin broke.

Everyone thought he would have to pick up his crutches and limp off stage to find another violin. But he didn’t. Instead, he closed his eyes and played with passion and power, unlike anything the audience had ever heard.

It’s impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. But that night Perlman refused to know that. When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then everyone rose. The music he made that night was more beautiful than any he had made before.

As the noise subsided, he was called on to say a few words. He said one sentence that everyone knew referred to more than just the broken violin string. He said, “Our job is to make music with what remains!”

 In life too, we have very many strings broken. What is important is to keep playing the role given to us as best as we can.

In the absence of sorrows, even the best of joys is only but a dry monotony. The value of money or food is never understood by the pampered cosmopolitan children of affluent families. The value of health is never realised by the healthy ones who smoke and drink.

Truly said, familiarity even with joy can bring contempt.

It is said, to develop a healthy personality one must have these five experiences:

First, being a nursery school teacher. While teaching lessons to children who are not learning, one develops the ability to accept others as they are. It brings in us tremendous patience… 

Second, being a farmer. Only a farmer knows the factors involved in bringing up crops – hard work, soil, rain, sun, protection from insects, manure etc.  Millions and millions of tons of food are wasted every day because its value is not known. A farmer’s experience will make us realize the value of food… 

Third, a visit to a mental hospital. Whatever people talk in the mental hospital, we don’t mind. They may scold us, blame us, curse us or shout at us. But we don’t mind because we know they are mentally sick. There are many people outside the hospital, but that doesn’t mean they are mentally well. They may speak hurting words out of anger or jealousy. We must learn not to get affected by them, not to take the garbage inside and allow our mind to get polluted. Experience in the mental hospital will teach us how not to become a football of others’ opinions.

Fourth, a visit to a prison. Spend some time with the prisoners. We will realise what compassion is, what helplessness is. These people did something wrong under the compulsion of negative emotions. But afterwards, they regret every moment for their ignoble act. A visit to the prison teaches us the need for self-control.

Fifth, a visit to the hospital to meet terminally ill people. This will teach us how precious life is, and we will start valuing health, and every moment therein.

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