Learning from Life

The Mahabharata tells us that "All men are subject to an governed by two forces—Destiny and Exertion." It goes on to say: "Success springs from the union of the two." But, it adds, "Exertion succeeds through destiny."

To understand this problem we must give up the present attitude of judging things on appearance. Since "truth is a gem found at great depth," and since "the juice of the orange is inside the skin," we will never understand the truth unless we can get to the reality underlying the appearances of things in life.

With regard to what appears to us to be fatalism, it is necessary to recognize first that there is a Cycle of Necessity and laws pertaining to it. We have to follow that evolutionary path, for we cannot avoid it; but to benefit from it, it is absolutely necessary to accept the idea without reservation. Without positive and complete acceptance of our destiny we waste our energies in fighting against it instead of fighting in it and with it. It has some value for us, something to teach us, something that urges us on to efforts of exertion. It is not the dull acceptance—"all is Kismet!"—that is needed, for it breeds stagnation. It is the absolute feeling of willing acceptance, with joy. Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor, expressed it this way: "Love that only which happens to thee and is spun with the thread of thy destiny. For what is more suitable?"

The great American writer, Emerson, taught that

Life invests itself with inevitable conditions, which the unwise seek to dodge, which one and another brags that he does not know; that they do not touch him: but the brag is on his lips, the conditions are in his soul.

So, first, by careful and earnest thought we must accept the inevitability of that which comes to us. Destiny is. What is to be done with destiny is the next proposition to be thought out. All obstacles which we recognize as such and which have to be overcome need will-power. We have to exert to overcome our destiny, to use it. It is the opposite of the old idea of praying to escape our destiny, and the recognition of the truth that we learn through trials. In Theosophic language, the more worthy we are, the more "destiny" we have to overcome. Therefore we can see the uselessness of the effort to fight against destiny. We might use the story of Arjuna and Lord Shiva to help us see why it is useless to fight that which is too great for us. Arjuna fought with Shiva when he appeared as a hunter; his arrows struck the God but fell away, unable to injure him. When Arjuna turned his eyes away to worship at the shrine, he saw Shiva as the God, no longer as a hunter. To become one with is better than to fight!

Certain it is that we all experience suffering and sorrow at some time or another; also, we see others in the throes of sorrow and suffering. Indeed, we are urged to feel pity for our suffering friends, and often we try to help them bear their burden, for this way we begin to develop, in however small a degree, compassion for all. There is something in pain and suffering that, when rightly borne, brings to birth soul qualities in us. It makes us think of and feel for others in like circmstances, so that a conception of real brotherood is established.

Whether our suffering is physical pain in the body or is caused by loss of friends or change of circumstances, we have to engender a power of exertion through acceptance and, with patience which strengthens the will, force our way through all obstacles to the goal ahead. The very human quality that is ours is that which makes it possible for us, as Shelley pointed out in "Prometheus Unbound,"

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;

To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope, till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;

Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;

This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.

Our watchwords should be: Necessity, Acceptance, Exertion, Joy.

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