Volume 6 - Issue 06
JUNE - 2008
HARNESSING THE HEART - PART 7
…LIVING UP TO THE CHALLENGE OF CONSCIENCE IN DAILY LIFE
Choices… and Why I Made Them
By Mr. Hiten Morarji
Going to a university is not only about getting a degree or qualification, but also about learning skills and experiencing an independent life that provides us with life long lessons which we carry with us and can use to help us on the long road ahead! How strange it is when I look back and reflect upon that 18-year-old boy who embarked upon three years of university education? Six years on, what lessons were learnt?
Leaving home was my first step into the unknown and I was deeply nervous at the prospect of this new phase in my life. In spite of my parents’ worried words of wisdom “Be careful, remember why you are going to the university, don’t waste time and this opportunity……” any sense of caution was quickly lost in the fog of my new found activities. I remember very clearly how quickly I had agreed and nodded to their measured advice, just for the sake of appeasing them.
In the ‘In Crowd’
The novelty of having my own space, doing my own things and enjoying the attention from people was exciting; I was easily persuaded to join the “crowd” who appeared to take a personal interest in me with such enticing words as “You are one of us, let’s go and have a good time, we’ll show you how to live life,” humorously ignoring my passive refusals. They met my need to be in their company.This ‘comfort of strangers’ became an integral part of my life. However, it was this attention and attachment that lead to a dilemma, one that inevitably changed my life.
“Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached.”
- Simone Weil (1910-1943) French Philosopher
This attachment to ‘friends’ initially began as many friendships do, fairly slowly. However, as time grew on, from my first year into my second year of university, the friendships grew stronger and eventually we all moved together in one house.
Gradually I was totally absorbed with the social life at the university and doing things with my friends became my only priority. After all, I felt good, important and popular. This association with my fellow students, whom I considered to be my friends, became my sole purpose of being at the university, which no doubt, affected my studies.
Parents Cold Shouldered
So blinded was I in my new company that without knowing why, I was unable to spend even a little time with my parents on one occasion, when they drove 70 miles to come and see me.
Meeting them was not my highest priority, especially when my friends would say “What’s the rush, you can see them later or when you go home….”. A fleeting thought would come now and again that I should go and see them, but was easily dissolved in my social climate. It was as if my conscience, my inner voice was attempting to break through my wall of ignorance, however, I brushed it aside and even managed to contrive a plausible reason of studying in the library as an excuse for not being able to meet them occasionally. I was too busy revelling in the company of my peers.
My parents began to convey to me their concerns and offered guidance and advice, (which I did not seek) and I further resorted to making decisions that meant sacrificing my time with my family, and paying little heed to their counsel. I was afraid to lose my new found independence, one that nurtured my happiness. “There is nothing wrong in enjoying life to the full”…I told myself. I thought I could handle and get the best of both worlds – i.e. get an education and have a successful social life.
Inevitably the consequences of my lifestyle came back to me. I failed my second year education, was on the verge of being thrown off my course and had missed out on my 12 month student work placement with a prestigious company.
All my ‘friends’ though, had passed their exams and were successful in securing their placements. I was truly happy for them. However, I had no idea what to do and how to get myself out of the situation I found myself in. I assumed they would always be there! I realised gradually that my parents had always had my well-being in their hearts, and that I had abused the independence I had gained. I needed to change, but my dilemma was ‘how’?
Realising the Need to Change
I had to adjust my mind to this reality of failure that stared me in my face. In my mind, there was no prospect of my failing the exams, I had to accept the extent to which I must have been self deluded so as to believe that I would pass without any difficulty. My wake up call had finally arrived. Like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “Beware the Ides of March” I too had ignored all the warnings of the impending doom.
I was faced with the burden of making a choice: to continue on the path that my social life was taking me, or to walk away against peer pressure which by now was deeply rooted within me, to the extent that I had lost sight of my purpose and my own values. My judgement and decision making was somewhat clouded and I was clearly distracted from developing myself and my career.
I cried “Oh My God, what have I done, how have I ended up like this? I had not earned marks, I had earned remarks.” Not knowing how to fix this situation, I prayed to Swami for guidance.
It was time for me to step back, re-assess and analyse what had happened over the last two years - it was crucial for me to find out how all this had happened. Despite my parents’ warnings about choosing true friends, I was very sad that I had been ignoring my parents’ advice; I felt I had let them and myself down. I realised that amongst many things, I had taken life’s opportunities for granted. It dawned on me that I had paid the price for it and needed to recover the cost somehow, to re-build my life, my education, my confidence and to strengthen my character. I needed to rediscover the good values and principles I had been brought up with. I had thought I had friends with whom I could share my life, my good moments and bad times.
Vulnerable as I was, I chose to walk away and to cut the ties from these ‘friends’. In the depths of my soul I knew I was suffering as a result of the choices I had made. Now the time had come for me to take responsibility for making the right choice. I knew that I would be ridiculed by my peers, but now I had to resist all the temptations and concentrate on getting myself out of this dire predicament. For example, on occasions when I decided to be by myself, three or four people would come together and say ”Come on then, do something worthwhile, don’t be so boring…” I would then give a string of excuses such as “I have to catch up on my work and other things…,” feeling intimidated and unable to say “No” with confidence. This gave me determination to face whatever comes from this process of breaking free and being at one with my conscience. In the depths of my despair, I found this salvation.
My decisions didn’t go down too well and I had to stand up and be strong. I believed that they were not to blame for my predicament and I had to do this for myself. My ‘friends’ were not going to pick up the pieces, sit my exams and pass for me. I wanted to achieve something with my life, be successful in my career and make my parents proud.
The Challenge of Re-educating Oneself
I took courage and faced my lecturers to find out where I had gone wrong in my exams, especially when I was under the impression that I had passed! I knew now that I had lived in a “gambler’s paradise.” This is the notion of a gambler who convinces himself that he cannot lose. I was like a blind man gambling with my future, totally unaware of the consequences of my actions.
I began to reconnect with Swami as I battled on for a second chance with my university to allow me back on the course and to re-sit my exams. With much self discipline, I needed to re-focus and overcome the initial struggle of getting back on the course, and having to study at home, preparing for my exams. I was rebuilding my life and growing up. It was during this time I realised where I’d gone wrong and learnt many hard lessons. I worked hard with my studies, rebuilt my relationship with my parents and regained their trust and earned their respect.
My fair weathered friends had distanced themselves because of my predicament and their occasional words of consolation gave me no comfort. My only solace came from my parents “What is done is done, we will work together to get you back on track; we have confidence that you will turn this round”. I realised that they too had felt my pain.
Keeping to the Straight and Narrow
Having passed my second year exams, I faced another test: “Do I re-unite with some of my previous acquaintances?” I made a conscious decision not to be part of “the crowd”. I was humbled by this second chance of redemption. My life had drastically changed with a new found purpose. The final year was by no means easy! I was determined to row this life boat through the stormy seas and reach the lighthouse of hope.
When assignment deadlines loomed, I was often tempted by colleagues to go out and socialise; however, I was able to step back and learnt to say “No”. With my conscience as my guide, I was able to focus my energies on my real goals and expectations to achieve the highest standard both for my degree and for my personal well-being.
This was an incredible test of faith, determination, hard work and discipline.
I learnt an invaluable lesson that everything happens for a reason, that this was all God’s divine play! He taught me the lessons I needed to learn for which I will always remain grateful. In time, I realised what friendship is and what it is not.
“When nine hundred and ninety nine friends have failed you, the Thousandth friend will stand by your side to the gallows-foot -- and there after!.. .” (from Kipling’s ‘The Thousandth Man’). And that “friend” was God.
Why was this God’s divine play?
The day of my results came, the waiting and the tension was almost unbearable! I learnt I had successfully passed and graduated from university. I was ecstatic! At this point I cried and fell at Bhagavan’s Feet in our temple at home, all I could say was ‘thank you’!
I then stumbled upon a small photo of Swami, which my mother had brought home from a function. I had noticed this photo a while ago and used to look at it regularly, but had never taken it out of its little envelope. For some reason on the day I passed my exams, I decided to open the envelope and read the message at the bottom.
“Your destiny does not depend upon examination marks; it depends more on character, will-power and the Grace of God.”
How appropriate this message was, it really hit home in ways that I just couldn’t explain. I had learnt such a valuable lesson, which I could now positively use and apply in my future endeavours in life.
When we are separated from our conscience, we find ourselves in the sea of troubles. With hindsight, the one thing I would possibly do differently is to avoid the hurt and pain caused to my parents and to myself. This experience taught me a lot about the importance of family values and self-respect.
“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.”
John Dewey (1859 – 1952)
I do not regret the final choice I made, as I am grateful for the outcomes and the opportunity to learn valuable lessons. I have developed confidence and reclaimed my integrity. I believe it is important for us, young people, to have sound principles and positive values to overcome life’s great challenges.
I hope this sharing of my experience will help those who are at similar cross roads in their lives.
Illustrations: Ms. Vibhuti Thaker, SSHVN Youth team member
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Vol 6 Issue 06 - JUNE 2008
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