Old Habits Die Hard


Radha Prathi, Feb 5, 2016

There are two ways to approach a failure. It can be treated as the stepping stone of success or simply avoided because when a person is once bitten, he is twice shy. The response to failure should be based on the goal of the undertaken project.

If one works on an assignment which will make a difference to oneself or the society around, giving the task a second or third try can prove worthwhile. On the other hand, if the activity happens to stem from one’s Achilles’ heel, it can prove to be detrimental.

An incident from the Mahabharata illustrates how a person can tumble into a bottomless pit by failing to use discretion or self control. When Yudhishtira established Indraprastha, his cousins, the Kauravas, could not contain their jealousy. Shakuni devised a bout of gambling that would relieve the Pandavas of all their possessions.

The invitation for a game of dice was extended to Yudhishtira.

The Pandavas smelt something fishy. They wanted to turn down the invitation. Yet, Yudhishtira was reluctant to refuse the invite for two reasons. The protocol of his times demanded him to accept the invitation. If he had genuinely wanted to circumvent the gambling session, he could have done so. All the same Yudhishtira decided to go ahead because he had a weakness for playing dice. He then lost his kingdom, power, brothers and even his wife one after another at the game of dice.

He was subjected to abject humiliation and was tied down by his Dharma to be of any earthly help to his family. Even the attempt to violate Draupadi’s modesty was averted because of the divine intervention of Krishna. The lord made Dhritarashtra realise his blunder. Yudhishtira was restored with all that he lost. Matters seemed to have settled till Shakuni arranged to invite Yudhishtira for a friendly game of dice again in the guise of smoothing matters. Once again Yudhishtira had the option to reject the call.

The recent set of events could have served as reason enough to shy away from gambling. Nevertheless, Yudhishtira succumbed to his weakness in the name of honouring royal etiquette. He placed wagers on the lines of the last round of games. The only difference was the absence of ignominy. Consequently Yudhishtira was stripped of his property and power and was sent on exile. Interestingly, years later, Yudhishtira often played his favourite game with King Virata when in incognito.

His habit almost gave him away once he started bleeding when struck by the king; Draupadi in disguise had to hasten to prevent his dripping blood from touching the ground.

If we fail to wean away from detrimental addictions, they can land us in irreversible situations in life. Indeed, old habits die hard.

Choosing Mind Over Body


There are times when people become addicted to habits that can debilitate one physically and mentally. More often than not they get enslaved to the evil even before they realise it. They compromise on their values and self respect to fulfill their cravings.

They yield to their yearnings despite being counseled or reprimanded because their body will experience dreadful withdrawal symptoms when its hankering is not pacified.

If an addict of evil habits has to be weaned away from the quagmire, he has to understand the difference between his mind and body and use them judiciously to gain self control.

Jalaluddin Rumi suggested a solution using the metaphor of a well known romantic tale of Leila and Majnu in his tales from Mathanwi.

Once the legendary Majnu set out to meet his heartthrob Leila riding on a camel across the desert.

He used to guide the camel in a certain direction and then lapse into daydreaming about his lady love.

The camel which sensed that its rider had no control over her would take her own counsel and would proceed in the direction of the village in which her young one was left behind.

Majnu would come out of his reverie and realise that he was proceeding in the wrong route. Then he would guide the camel back to the correct path.

Once he was satisfied that the camel was moving in the right direction, he would lapse into the world of Leila. The camel would obey his master initially and then go about on her own when she was not directed.

This cycle of events was repeated several times over a span of three months.

One fine day, Majnu jumped out of the camel and cried out, “This camel is my undoing!” Then he jumped down from the camel and continued on foot, singing to himself,  “My camel’s desire is behind me; my own desire lies ahead:

Truly! She and I are at odds and can agree no more.”

If one gives in indefinitely to all kinds of whims and fancies, sooner or later it will lead them into the bottomless pit of decadence. Vulnerability could overcome the victim irreversibly.

Though professional medical and psychiatric help is available these days, the affected person should consciously decide to overcome the setbacks.

The person should realise that his or her body and mind should be first sensitised to the benefits of simple living and high thinking and then synchronized to lead a healthy and harmonious life.