CONDONE COMPARISONS


PUBLISHED IN DECCAN HERALD 16TH NOVEMBER 2020

Parents want the very best in the world for their children. They do mind working very hard and trying beyond their means to pave a wonderful future for their children. They try to motivate their children in many ways. Sometimes they draw comparisons with a successful child hoping to urge their child to perform similarly or even better. It is during these times they inadvertently sow a lot of negative qualities in the psyches of the young minds. Instead of driving the child to do better they end up teasing their wards to rise their ugly heads. There are other times when they manage to kill interest or develop aversion towards the set goal.

The problem seems to be as old as mankind itself. A tale from the Ramayana deals with a similar case. Kubera and Ravana sons of sage Vishravas were half brothers. When Ravana was a young boy, Kubera the king of Lanka flew in his Pushpaka Vimana to meet his father. Ravana’s mother Kaikasi eyed the grandeur and style of her stepson and brought it to her son’s notice.

In addition to it she earmarked the prosperity and position of Kubera as a benchmark to be achieved by Ravana. Young Ravana made it his life’s ambition to acquire the same. Ravana was accomplished in every way to achieve all that and more with some effort. Instead of trying to work hard and attain a similar summit, Ravana coveted Kubera’s place and possessions. He fought tooth and nail to usurp everything that belonged to Kubera.

Story of Kubera, Ravana and Kaikesi - Rakshasa swabhavam

The lord of wealth appealed to his father for intervention. Vishravas felt it exceedingly difficult to make Ravana see good sense. Hence he suggested to Kubera to explore new grounds far far away from Lanka and start afresh from scratch. Since the Yaksha  was intelligent, talented and capable, he decided to follow his father’s advice. He built Alanka famously known as Alakapuri, recreated prosperity and steered clear of Ravana.

Ravana for his part ruled over Lanka, the ill-gotten asset. Kaikasi had goaded her son to tread the unethical path by sowing seeds of jealousy in his psyche.

Like Kaikasi parents seldom take into account the side effects of their erroneous notions of motivation. Though parents think that they are not guilty of partiality, prejudice, unrealistic expectation or comparison most often they are responsible for these very drawbacks.

Complacency Can Lead to Complications


Sometimes we become smug and complacent in life. This feeling descends on us when we have achieved our aim or when we are happy and contented in life. At such times, we tend to become arrogant and irascible. We turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the people around us and gradually lose sight of the power of mutual respect and interdependence. We preen our feathers and strut around till we stumble and tumble over.

The sum and substance of this process is depicted in one of the anecdotes that appear in the Upanishads. Indra established his supremacy over the three worlds. He became conceited. He forgot his basic manners. He disregarded his Guru Brihaspathi. The slighted Guru abandoned Amaravathi. The Devas weakened because, their Guru had stopped channelizing Havis or the strength of the oblations offered in the sacrificial fires to them. The Asuras, the natural enemy of the Devas recognized the chink in Indra’s armour. They harassed him. Only then, Indra recognized his need for his Guru. Indra hurried to pacify the preceptor in vain. He approached Lord Brahma for a plausible solution. The lord suggested that the Devas should have a stop gap arrangement. Vishwaroopa, the son of Thwastha was substituted in Brihaspathi’s position as an interim arrangement. Respite was restored. All the same Indra smelt something amiss. A little investigation revealed that Vishwaroopa was passing on the effect of the Havis partially to the Asuras. Indra was infuriated. He beheaded Vishwaroopa. Thwastha became distraught. He resolved to destroy Indra. He used his Yogic power to beget an invincible son who would be the nemesis of Indra. Vrithrasura was born. Indra was destabilized by Vrithrasura. He approached MahaVishnu. The lord told him that Vrithrasura was immune to all kinds of conventional weapons. Only a weapon made from the bones of sage Dadheechi could kill Vrithrasura. That was a tall order. There was no other alternative. Indra approached the sage and cited the case. Almost immediately, Dadheechi went into a state of Samadhi and gave up his life. Indra used the sage’s bones to construct the infallible Vajrayudha. Vrithrasura was duly killed. Indra  appeased his Guru apologized to Brihaspathi and peace was restored.

 Indra learned the lesson of gratitude, generosity, humility, empathy and co-operation the hard way. If we imbibe these  values  from Indra’s experience we can enjoy uninterrupted, flawless success.

Self Confidence Vs Overconfidence


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Confidence can be a powerful virtue and a true friend during times of doubt or crisis. Heroes have overcome obstacles and disasters by the sheer strength of self-reliance. Some admittedly great men who chose to be arrogant paved way for their downfall and defeat.

The Ramayana shows the contrast between the two sides of this wonderful quality through the character of the king of Lanka. Ravana was a staunch devotee of lord Shiva. He wanted to spend all his time in the company of the lord. His royal duties and ambitions came in the way of his deep desire. Therefore he decided to take a middle path that would allow him to have the best of both the worlds. Accordingly, he performed a vigorous penance. When Shiva manifested himself in front of him, he expressed his prayer. Shiva was amused by the naiveté of his devotee who seemed to take him for granted. All the same Shiva did not want to disappoint Ravana. Hence Ravana was given an Atma-Lingam which housed the Soul of Shiva. Even as the king of Lanka reveled at his blessings, and was ready to leave for Lanka, Lord Shiva cautioned him to be careful about handling the Atma Lingam. The lord said that, if the Atma-Lingam was ever placed on the ground during the transit, it would be rooted to the spot. When one observes this clause closely, it will not be difficult to see that Ravana was being tested on two counts – his devotion and determination. Ravana accepted the condition without any hesitation for he saw no threat to breach the stipulation. He proceeded towards Lanka in wind speed.

The gods became apprehensive about the potential power of the already potent king. Ganesha was commissioned to intervene and abort his venture. The elephant god manifested himself as a Brahmin boy and offered to be Ravana’s assistant and hold the Linga while the king completed his ablutions. When Ravana was doing his job, Vinayaka tarried a while, called out to the king and then placed the idol on the ground and vanished. The angered devotee had to garner all his demoniac strength to break off a portion of the Atma Lingam.

If only Ravana had substituted self confidence instead of over confidence he would have been able to retain his hard earned blessings and remained indomitable with all his wonderful talents and qualities.

Five-fold Formula For Success


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Which of us would not like to succeed and enjoy our name, fame, money and the status that comes along with it? The desire is but only natural and perfectly legitimate as long as we do not swerve from the path of truth and take to undesirable methods to achieve our goals. True, it is a tough proposition and sometimes it becomes very tempting for us to take up shortcuts to success. If we are under the impression that the said syndrome is the weakness of the human race alone, we must stand corrected.

The Markandeya Purana records a discord among the trinities on this count. Once it so happened that MahaVishnu and Brahma got into an unexpected argument. Each of them felt he was superior to the other. Shiva who was a witness to this altercation offered to find a solution to this issue. Accordingly, he metamorphosed into a linear flame and instructed the two discontented gods to find his beginning and the end. Brahma turned himself into a swan and flew upwards. Maha Vishnu bored into the bowels of the earth in the form of a tusked boar. Though both of them began zealously in right earnest, they were unable to reach their destination. After a considerable amount of effort and time, the two of them returned. Brahma said he had seen the tip of the Shiva Linga and handed over a Ketaki flower to lord Shiva saying that he found it on top of the Linga. MahaVishnu gracefully conceded that he could not fulfill his task.

Even as Brahma braced himself to be accolade for his achievement, lord Shiva pronounced a curse on the creator saying that he will not be included for idol worship on earth. He also vowed that he would not accept the Ketaki flower in his worship.

This tale holds a fivefold message that can be guiding forces to help us lead a successful life. We must steer clear of the one-upmanship game. Honesty is the best policy. There is no shame in accepting our shortcomings or failure. Faked success can burst like a bubble at any time and damage our self esteem and our image forever. The expanse of any subject is infinite like the supreme soul Shiva; we can explore it to the best of our ability but never gain complete access over it.

The Four Pillars Of The Success Mantra


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Everybody wants success. However, success does not come to all and sun-dry. Success follows anyone who has the discipline, hard work, passion and perseverance to achieve his or her goal. A story from the Ramayana highlights the four pillars of the success mantra. King Sagara lost his ceremonial horse while conducting his Ashwamedha Yajna. He sent his sixty thousand sons after the horse, which was eventually found in sage Kapila’s hermitage.

The princes misconstrued the sage to be the thief. The enraged sage reduced them to ashes. Sagara’s grandson Anshuman who went in search of his uncles discovered the truth. Garuda the celestial bird advised Anshuman to liberate the souls of his kin by washing their ashes over with the waters of the celestial Ganga. Anshuman did as he was bid, but was unsu­ccessful, so was his son Dile­e­pa. His grandson Bhageeratha, decided that he should redeem the soul of his ancestors. He studied the reasons for the previous failures and realised that his forefathers were trying to row two boats simultaneously. Therefore he renounced his throne and set out to conduct a severe penance to Lord Brahm­a.

The pleased Lord said that he had no reservations about directing the river of gods to descend on earth. Nevertheless he was doubtful whether the earth had the power to bear her form­idable force. He told Iksha­v­a­ku king to request Lord Shiva to control the waters. Bhageeratha meditated on Shiva and arranged for the descent of Ganga. Little did Bhagee­r­a­tha expect Lord Shiva to lock the audacious waters in his matted locks. He humbly performed another penance and impressed upon Shiva to release Ganga to salvage the souls of his forefathers. Just when he thought that all his troubles were over Ganga managed to annoy sage Jahnu who drank her up in a fit of anger. The poor king pleaded with the sage to let go of Ganga and eventually led her to the nethe­r­world and carried out his mission. Any other person in his place would have given up, but not Bhageeratha. The sense of purpose of the fourth generation scion has been epitomised in the phrase Bhageeratha Prayathna which we will do well to emulate, if we hope to realise our most cherished dreams.

The Need To Overcome Rivalry


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Rat race is the order of the day. Everyone is rushing headlong to achieve the best in life in terms of money, power and materialistic assets. 

It is interesting to note that there is a certain pattern in which people compete with one another. People invariably tend to compare and contend with those close to them in terms of age, abilities and achievements. This syndrome of rivalry seems to be rampant in just about every conceivable field under the sun across time and space. People are always very conscious about someone who is a few notches higher them in their range of ability. In fact, this universal negative quality is what keeps the world going the way it is.

When one contemplates on this inevitable curse on human society, it is not difficult to see that nature has ordained it so in the scheme of things. Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest revolves around this concept. A trip down our mythology reveals that the personality of the lord of gods, Indra, is no different. Devendra had it all. He was the king of very heavens and had power, wealth and influence over the cosmos. Yet, Indra never stopped feeling insecure about his position.

He always found ways and means to abort the penances and efforts of Rishis and mortal kings to excel themselves. A Vedic dictum says that any person who completed 100 Ashwamedha Yagnas successfully could claim the status of Indra.  The Yagna demanded discipline, consistent effort, military prowess and an undiluted sense of purpose in order to qualify for the highest post in creation. Apparently, Indra must have completed the arduous criteria to gain this coveted throne. Yet, these factors do not deter him from resorting to cheap tactics and guile to upset the endeavours of his potential adversary to safeguard his post.

If one hopes to rise above these petty feelings and stop feeling short-changed and jealous, he or she must adopt the attitude of working sincerely towards the goal from respective stations in life without fear or favour as suggested by lord Krishna. If each of us does our bit, the big picture will materialise magnificently.

Evolution of Hospitality Industry


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When the conservative Indians promoted the concept of eating outside their homes by patronising the exceptional culinary skills of the Udupi cooks, little did they realise that they were paving the way for a mighty food and hospitality industry in the coming decades.

Though the industry began as an amateur, it slowly developed into a state-of-the-art restaurant over a period of time, giving it a professional touch.

Soon, high profile hospitality industry like the star-rated hotels, swanky resorts, restaurants and VIP guest houses felt the need for trained professionals who could carry out their duties with a flair of international sensibilities.

The Government of India realised these needs and encouraged various universities to include a course in Hotel Management in the 1980s.

Now, most colleges offer good infrastructure and they complement classroom academics with practical lessons to enrich the knowledge of the students. However, the results have not been exactly spectacular, thus far.

While some colleges are affiliated to the Indian universities, many have tied up with foreign universities for short term diploma courses and certificate courses, which boost the profile of the student in the international scene.

Initially a 4-year undergraduate course called BHM (Bachelor of Hotel Management) was introduced with relevant subjects touching on areas like language, accounts, housekeeping and related skills necessary for the job. The teaching faculty at hotel management colleges said that though the course content matched international standards, unfortunately, the takers of the courses were the students who were much below the average mark. A survey reveals that the situation has not altered much, even to this day.

The reasons are obvious – students with low marks or candidates who may have discontinued education are the usual takers. Naturally, they do not do well in academics because of lack of basic knowledge coupled with a sense of low self-esteem.

They are also perhaps acutely aware of the fact that the society at large is not really well-known for honouring jobs as hoteliers, waiters or housekeepers even in star-rated hotels. This is also one of the main reasons why there was a glaring absence of girl students in these classes in the initial years. The scene has changed a little over the years. Now there is a steady trickle of young women who are ready to give it a shot.

Despite the low popularity level, it is a fact that, the course has landed several diligent students in enviable positions in many star-rated hotels.

Success stories

These success stories have also encouraged the partially-educated staff working in private and ordinary eateries to take up the course to upgrade themselves as professionally qualified personnel who can move on to greener pastures.

Then there are enterprising hoteliers who introduce grooming classes and train their staff in communication and soft skills to enhance the quality of the services in the hotel. Such trained workers are indirectly motivated to clear their intermediate examinations privately and take up a hotel management course.

The reason for such careful cushioning lies in the realms of detrimental attrition which leaves the industry almost always in a state of uncertainty.

The day is not far when the growing demand of the industry will attract more and more and even meritorious students to consider hotel management courses as a career option.

Hotel management colleges can consider this situation to be a cue and gear up to cater to the needs of the industry and give it the much needed facelift. Globalisation and enhanced spending capacity of Indians has paved the way for a boom in the hospitality industry in a big way. Campus recruitments are becoming the order of the day.

Big names in the industry across the globe are ready to absorb and pay fancy salaries and positions construing to the talents and qualifications of the candidates. In fact the market has expanded over the past couple of years. Developing marine businesses like cruise liners and ships are recruiting personnel by the dozens. Event management teams and trip organisers are always looking for trained staff.

Certainly, the situation cannot get any better. Earnest students of hotel management can be rest assured that they can land themselves on the velvet if they work diligently towards their goal.

Stop Not Till The Goal Is Reached


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These days schools, colleges, business houses, corporate, government and public sector organisations religiously arrange elaborate orientation sessions at the start of a new project, semester or term. These sessions aim at making  newcomers comfortable with their forthcoming years in the varsity. In other words these assemblies reiterate the message found in Upanishads – Uththishta, Jaagratha, Praapaya Varannibodhita.

This dictum has been beautifully put across in the story of a young boy called Nachiketa. It is said the boy knocked the door of Yama in a bid to fulfil his father’s words who said he would give away his son Nachiketa to the lord of Death in a fit of anger. Yama, generally feared by the mortal world, was pleasantly surprised to see the earnest young man at his doorstep and engaged him in conversation. Yama was even more surprised when the young boy wanted to know about the secret of Death that has been puzzling humankind ever since the beginning of time. Yama tried to talk the boy around and away from his questions. Nachiketa was very clear about his goals. He wanted supreme knowledge hitherto unknown to anyone, including the very gods. Yama was reluctant to disclose the niche knowledge to the boy because he was not very sure if the question rose out of sheer curiosity or was it a genuine thirst for knowledge. Therefore, he tempted Nachiketa with worldly riches like having a hundred noble sons and grandsons who would live to be a hundred years, as many milch cows, elephants, horses, gold, wealth, land or anything else that he fancied. Surprisingly the boy was not tempted by any of them. He refused the worldly bounties of Preyas and opted for Shreyas, which is eternal knowledge. Eventually, Yama felt obliged to satiate the boy’s inquisitiveness.

Vivekananda once said if he had a dozen students like Nachiketa, he could turn the minds of Indians towards exploring themselves and arriving at discovering the Brahman.
At a practical level, spiritual awakening would automatically help people upgrade themselves physically, economically and politically.

It is interesting to note that Vivekananda was actually echoing the Upanishadic concept when he said, “Arise, awake stop not till your goal is reached.”

Restart If Essential


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Radha Prathi, March 8, 2016:

Planning is definitely a prerequisite to lead a routine normal life or achieve monumental success. Yet there are times when we find that our best laid plans are reduced to shambles. More often than not, we realise that we have digressed from the chosen path because we have succumbed to distractions. We seldom realise that our cautiousness and alertness about impending dangers are teased by unforeseen circumstances or fate.

Logical analysis of the failure may or may not reveal the chink in the armour. When we are in such situations, we must not hesitate to restart our pet project from scratch. Sooner or later, a plausible solution will manifest itself in the form of an opportunity or a person who will lead us out of the dark tunnel.

An episode from the Ramayana puts across this point ever so well. Sugriva the king of Kishkinda divided his army into four parts. He sent them in the four directions of the earth in search of Rama’s spouse Sita. The southern direction was captained by Hanuman, his trusted minister. Angada the crown prince of Kishkinda  who was under his able leadership, set out enthusiastically to fulfill the mission. His youth, energy and penchant for exploring new facets of life, led him and his simian associates into a Shangrila of sorts. He was carried away by the illusory pleasures and comforts that the region had to offer and forgot his goal.

Hanuman his mentor and guide, saw through the ploy of the enchantress Swayamprabha the mistress of the cave and discussed the gravity of the situation with her. The lady considered the application of Maruthi and decided to release the army from her deceitful clutches.

Though Angada was happy to surface back to normalcy, he was depressed because he had swerved from the chosen path. He felt insecure and afraid of facing the wrath of his uncle Sugriva and the exiled prince Rama. He contemplated  suicide till he was counselled otherwise by Hanuman. Angada’s confused mind gained clarity and he launched on the search project all over again with renewed energy and fresh hopes. That his team succeeded this time around lies in the realms of exercising patience and implementing the assignment all over again.

Old Habits Die Hard


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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.