Principles of Life

The American writer, Charles Garfield, who has made a thorough, psychological study of peak-achievement, says that ‘in a study of 90 leaders in business, politics, sports and arts, many spoke of ‘false starts’ but never of ‘failure.’ Disappointment spurs greater resolve, growth or change. Moreover, no matter how rough things get, super-achievers always feel there are other avenues they can explore. They always have another idea to test.’ (Readers’ Digest, October, 1986).

In 1831, an American citizen went into business. In 1832 his business failed, so he entered the field of politics, but was no more successful in that sphere. He reverted to business in 1834, and was again a failure.

An Air India plane, a Boeing 747, took off from Montreal on 23 June 1985, carrying 329 people aboard including the crew. It was bound for Delhi via London.

At Palam airport, Delhi, large numbers of people were waiting, as usual, to receive their relatives and friends. Some of the passengers were coming back home after working hard at their studies or their business. There were some girls and boys who were coming to India to get married. Still others were to visit their homeland after a long interval to meet their near and dear ones.

When the Industrial magnate, G.D. Birla (1894-1983), was thirty years old, he received a letter from an unknown student in Calcutta. This is what the student, in an informal and forthright manner, had written:

If only you can help me with an amount of Rs 22,000 for the purchase of a special type of instrument which has to be imported, I may assure you that I may be able to get the Nobel Prize for my discovery.

Albetano, an ancient Roman philosopher, is recorded as having said: ‘The angry man always thinks he can do more than he can.’

When a man is intoxicated with alcohol, he is not in control of himself. He may even go so far as to bang his head on a stone, unmindful of the fact that it may not be the stone that breaks but his own head. This is because, in his besotted state, he wrongly gauges his own abilities and proceeds to do things which can have unfavourable consequences.

In the Ohio University of the U.S.A. there is a department known as the Disaster Research Centre. It was established in 1963, and has so far studied over one hundred different calamities affecting human beings on a vast scale. It was discovered that at moments of crisis, an extraordinary new potential develops in people which saves them from succumbing to disasters and their aftermath. In 1961, for example, Texas was struck by a severe coastal tempest, but less than half of the inhabitants opted to vacate the area.

Try closing your room, going away, and returning after a few weeks. What do you find on your return? A thick layer of dust all over the room. This is so unpleasant that you don’t feel like sitting in the room until it has been dusted. Equally unpleasant is the dust blown in your face by a high wind, you find yourself longing for the wind to drop, so that there should be no more irritating dust.

A young man once came to a venerable master and asked, ‘How long will it take to reach enlightenment?’ The master said, ‘Ten years.’ The young man blurted out, ‘So long!’ The master said, ‘No, I was mistaken. It will take you twenty years.’ The young man asked, ‘Why do you keep adding to it!’ The master answered, ‘Come to think of it, in your case it will probably be 30 years.’ (Philip Kapleau, Readers Digest, 1983)

A creeper growing in a courtyard once had the misfortune to have its roots and branches buried under mounds of earth and rubble when the house was undergoing repairs. Later, when the courtyard was cleaned up, the owner of the house cut away the creeper, which had been badly damaged, and even pulled out its roots so that it would not grow again. The whole courtyard was then laid with bricks and cemented over.