The best way of life

Oasis

It is commonly believed that being virtuous involves suffering, either to a greater or to a lesser degree. This idea is instilled into our minds right from childhood. In school, we are advised to work hard, take pains with the subjects we find difficult and persevere in spite of failures.

We are reminded again and again that there is no royal road to learning. It entails curtailing play, giving up fun times and spending hours on what seems boring and incomprehensible. As adults, the climb uphill proves even more difficult. In order to keep a job and win promotions, one has to get along with both co-workers as well as the boss, while at the same time discharging one’s duties efficiently.

The demands of family life are no less onerous. Between husband and wife, differences have to be sunk, sacrifices made and preferences given a go-by. Raising a family too brings enormous pressures and parents have to forgo much in order to ensure the happiness of their children. Doing the right thing and keeping to the straight and narrow path are indeed difficult. One tends to agree with the Greek dramatist Sophocles, ‘Count no man happy until he dies’.

Our scriptures and fables tell us that upholding virtue and struggling against injustice is the surest way to everlasting happiness. King Sibi was willing to sacrifice his entire bleeding body in order to protect a dove pursued by a falcon.

The gods were pleased with him and restored him to health. Dhruva, it is said, prayed to Vishnu, standing on one leg for thousands of years. For his undying devotion, he was placed in the highest heavens to shine as the resplendent Pole Star. Real-life stories also convey the same message. Jesus died a cruel death on the Cross for the love of humankind. Socrates willingly drank poison for the sake of promoting truth. Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi died in order to uphold equality and freedom. Are we to believe then that true happiness lies in the hereafter and virtue has no rewards of its own in this life?

It is tempting to think so, but it is not wholly true. Treading the virtuous path can no doubt bring suffering, but it can also bestow manifold blessings. What is more, they happen in the here and now, unrelated to a paradise in the hereafter.The great poet Milton said, ‘The mind in its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell and a Hell of Heaven’.

In other words, happiness and misery come from the manner in which we react and respond to the challenges of life. Anyone who has been honest or done a good deed is aware of the deep satisfaction that this brings.

It enhances one’s self-worth and self-esteem and this is what matters in the long run. In the heart of this person, there reigns peace and well-being. As the virtuous know, doing one’s best in life is indeed the best life.

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