Being Resilient #
3 x OMs
In this study circle, let us explore and learn about recognizing our challenges and setbacks, how we “face the devil and finish the game”,how to develop and become resilient from within. Let us explore what Swami and our scriptures say about it.
There is nothing that is absolutely evil. The devil has a place here as well as God, else he would not be here. Just as I told you, it is through Hell that we pass to Heaven. Our mistakes have places here. Go on! Do not look back if you think you have done something that is not right. Now, do you believe you could be what you are today, had you not made those mistakes before? Bless your mistakes, then. They have been angels unawares. Blessed be torture! Blessed be happiness! Do not care what be your lot. Hold on to the ideal. March on! Do not look back upon little mistakes and things. In this battlefield of ours, the dust of mistakes must be raised. Those who are so thin-skinned that they cannot bear the dust, let them get out of the ranks.
— Swami Vivekananda
जब तक जीवन है तब तक संघर्ष है संघर्ष ही जीवन है जीवन ही संघर्ष है
जो लड़ता है वही जीतता है जो झुकता है वही पीतता है
कोई भी मुश्किल कोई भी कसौटी कोई भी परिस्थिति कोई भी मानसिकता
सिर्फ एक बंदा काफी है सिर्फ एक बंदा काफी है सिर्फ एक बंदा काफी है
As long as there is life There is struggle
Struggle is life Life is struggle
He who fights He wins He who bows down He loses
Any difficulty Any test Any situation Any mentality
Only one person is enough Only one person is enough Only one person is enough
- How do we deal with a challenge we seek vs the challenge that came upon us unexpectedly?
- If those challenges are inspected in isolations, are there any differences in the fundamental construct of the challenge? If yes, how?
- There is no story or drama or movie that does not have some twist and turn or ups and downs and often show some qualities of the characters, particularly those in lead roles, in how they go through these ups and downs and showcase resilience ( or the lack). In real life, can we reflect on how much of what we see or read is true and realistic and what is not?
- Can you share any small experience where you had to invoke your resilience by yourself or with someone else’s help?
- What would it mean to have resilience within oneself?
- What would it mean to be that person who can help someone else when they are facing a challenge ?
- As an community or organization, what does it mean to be resilient and what does it take to become resilient?
- Does inner resilience have anything to do with spirituality ?
- Does our spiritual path improve resilience?
- Do we need resilence to evolve in our spiritual journey?
- Have you looked at where the “spiritual you” and the “rational you” have tried to co-exist in the community and has it been easy or difficult? Have you persisted or have you scaled back on sharing your spiritual learnings ? ( Discuss Dr. Sandweiss’s life as an example)
The story is about Jashoda Rani, her husband Paramanondo, and their 7-year-old daughter Pollobhi from Bangladesh. Pollobhi was born with a congenital heart condition and her parents traveled to Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (SSSIHMS) in Whitefield, Bangalore for treatment. The story is about the divine protection and caring human support they received at SSSIHMS during the most traumatic period in their lives.
The story shows that Jashoda Rani, Paramanondo, and their daughter Pollobhi were resilient and had strong faith. Despite the challenges they faced, they never gave up hope. They were determined to find a solution and traveled to India for treatment at SSSIHMS. Even after the unexpected loss of Paramanondo, Jashoda remained strong and sought refuge in her spiritual strength and resilient spirit. She reached out for help and was grateful for the compassion and empathy she received from strangers in a foreign land. The family’s resilience and faith helped them overcome their difficulties and find hope in the midst of their struggles.
Verses From Gita #
uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ nātmānam avasādayet |
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ || BG 6-5 ||
bandhur ātmātmanas tasya yenātmaivātmanā jitaḥ |
anātmanas tu śatrutve vartetātmaiva śatru-vat || BG 6-6 ||
Reshape yourself through the power of your will; never let yourself be degraded by self-will. The will is the only friend of the Self, and the will is the only enemy of the Self. To those who have conquered themselves, the will is a friend. But it is the enemy of those who have not found the Self within them.
karmaṇy evādhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana |
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅgo ’stv akarmaṇi || BG 2-47 ||
You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.
duḥkheṣv anudvigna-manāḥ sukheṣu vigata-spṛhaḥ |
vīta-rāga-bhaya-krodhaḥ sthita-dhīr munir ucyate || BG 2-56 ||
One who is not disturbed in spite of the threefold miseries, who is not elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.
yadā saṁharate cāyaṁ kūrmo ’ṅgānīva sarvaśaḥ |
indriyāṇīndriyārthebhyas tasya prajñā pratiṣṭhitā || BG 2-58 ||
One who is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects, as the tortoise draws his limbs within the shell, is to be understood as truly situated in knowledge.
prasāde sarva-duḥkhānāṁ hānir asyopajāyate |
prasanna-cetaso hy āśu buddhiḥ paryavatiṣṭhate || BG 2-65 ||
For one who is so situated in the Divine consciousness, the threefold miseries of material existence exist no longer; in such a happy state, one’s intelligence soon becomes steady.
These verses state that resilience can be cultivated by mastering one’s will, performing one’s duty without attachment to results, attaining inner peace by harmonizing one’s mind and soul, and surrendering to God as the supreme source and goal of everything.
Excerpts from Sathya Sai Speaks #
Imbibe the ideals of Duty, Devotion and Discipline during the years you spend here. Devotion must be tested in the crucible of Discipline. It must be directed along the lines of Duty. Dharmaraaja, the eldest of the Paandavas, was the very embodiment of Devotion to the Lord Krishna. But, he had on both sides of him, Duty in the form of Arjuna and Discipline in the form of Bheema. So, he was able to defeat his enemies and crown himself Emperor.
Do not stuff your heads with the trivialities that fill the columns of periodicals, or absurd details of the personal lives of stars in any field. Don’t get excited with external events; or, depressed with events that appear like failures. Keep your head high over the flood waters; do not be carried away like stalks of straw.
Be as devoted and disciplined as Arjuna. Be as intelligent and strong as Bheema. Be steadfast and sincere, like Dharma-raaja. Then, no harm can come to you; you will achieve victory in all your efforts.
There are four F’s that you will have to fix before your attention. (1) Follow the Master, (2) Face the Devil, (3) Fight to the End and (4) Finish at the Goal. Follow the Master means, observe Dharma. Face the Devil means, overcome the temptations that beset you when you try to earn artha (wealth or the wherewithal to live in comfort). Fight to the End means, struggle ceaselessly; wage war against the six enemies that are led by kaama (lust). And, finally, Finish at the Goal means, do not stop until the goal of Moksha (Liberation from ignorance and delusion) Is reached. The F’s are fundamental for the pursuit of the four Purushaarthas—Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha. I shall be ever with you, wherever you are, guarding you and guiding you. March on; have no fear. Sathya Sai College, Brindhaavan, 6-7-1975
What exactly has to be renounced? Desire is the worst enemy and it has to be canalised and reduced with determination until it ceases to bother you. Besides desire, anger and greed also have to be discarded, for they are present wherever there is desire. When you say bowman, it is implied that arrows, too, are there with the bow. Thus desire is ever associated with anger and greed. Desire is bad even if it is for fame and authority. It is the avarice for power and pelf that ruins many a human life.
Life is a journey. The students here have to journey long. So, it is necessary to give them the skill, the enthusiasm and the security that can take them happily along. Their hearts are pure, steady and inclusive. Elders should so behave that they do not tarnish their hearts or make them narrow and vengeful. They must be encouraged to enlarge them and soften them through Intensive social service.
When you pursue these elevating ideals, you will come up against many obstacles which others place in your path. So, you must be ever alert and vigilant not to be taken in by their specious pleas. Awareness is life; be aware of your Inner strength and glory. Express that glory through loving service to society. In northern India yogis (spiritually advanced person), sages and monks are addressed as ‘Mahaaraaj,’ which means ‘Emperor,’ for an emperor is he who has a rich treasury of the gems of detachment and service, not one who has his vaults full of precious metals. The wealth that you hoard is not yours; the wealth that you have shared is yours. For wealth that belongs to you needs not to be hidden.
Defamation, criticism, and slighting are all to be set aside, unrecognized; they shall not be valued at all. They are all in the order of things. In fact, they also do some good in their own way, for they help to emphasize excellence and bring it more to light. It is a foil to make the thing shine brighter.
A dog barks at his own reflection Imagining it to be a rival. Other dogs, not knowing the reason, take cue, and the whole area is drowned with barking. Some bay at stars, but the stars are unmoved. You should not be perturbed by this empty noise; carry on your mission of service as now, with your usual enthusiasm. Youth should never yield to the call of fanaticism or revolution. Try to control your emotions, even from this tender age. In one way agitation is useful, because you can practice self-control in these exacting conditions.
Arjuna asked Krishna, “How can I constantly think of you? I have to perform my duties to my family and rule the kingdom.” Krishna said, “No doubt, these are your rightful duties. You have to take care of your wife and children and discharge your responsibilities given by God. But when you do your duties thinking of Me, you will have no difficulties.”
You have to receive from God and give to the world. It is a pity that man never follows this. And always keen only to receive with no trace of giving. Hence man suffers. To receive from God is a true affluence. To get from the world is a symbol of poverty.
By making appropriate efforts, you can accomplish anything, and by contemplating on God you get divine strength. Because of the monkey mind, you entertain doubts. When Krishna was a child, once there was a heavy downpour. Krishna asked all the people to come under the Govardhan Hill, which he would lift and make a canopy of. Some people doubted how the small boy could lift a hill and did not want to come under His shelter. All those who doubted and did not come under the shelter died, while all those under Krishna’s shelter survived duly protected by Him.
Mind is the source of happiness and sorrow. So, conquer the mind. Conquering the mind will lead you to the state of equanimity, wherein you treat the dualities alike. Vedanta has declared, “Manayeva Sathya manushyanam karanam bandhamokshayoh (mind is the cause of both bondage and liberation.)” Once you control your mind, you will grow beyond the dualities of sadness and happiness.
Welcome sorrow, just as you welcome happiness. In fact the happiness that you derive out of pleasure is negligible compared to the happiness that results from difficulties. History is replete with examples of people who stand testimony to this fact. All noble and ideal people had to undergo ordeals before they experienced happiness. Na sukhath labbyathe sukham (happiness is not derived from happiness). It is derived from pain and suffering, but man wants only happiness, not difficulties. This is quite contradictory to the principles of spirituality. People should understand this truth.
Punyasya phalamichchanthi Punyam nechchanthi manavaah
Na papaphalamichchanthi Papam kurvanthu yathnathahaha. [Sanskrit verse]
Man desires to have fruits of meritorious deeds but does not perform any. He does not want the fruits of sinful actions, yet he indulges in them.
Students, you are now in the most precious period of your life. You should never give room for any differences and discrimination in your thoughts, words, or deeds. Such unhealthy ideas arise from an unhealthy body. Each of you can judge for yourself whether you are strong and healthy or weak and unhealthy, based on the nature of ideas that arise in you. That is why it is said “Yat bhavam tat bhavati (As you think, so you become.)” Just as you take care of the iron safe for the sake of the valuable jewels inside, so too you should take care of your body for the sake of the precious Atma in it. You should eat to live but not live to eat. If you have self-confidence, the required food will come walking to you, as it were. You need not go in search of food. That is why it is said in the Bhagavatha that one who seeks the Atma is a gopi (devotee) while one who seeks food is a papi (sinner). It is a pity that having got the invaluable human birth, people are running after anna (food) instead of seeking the Atma. Vedanta has been exhorting man to find out who he really is. Instead of using the mirror of your intellect for looking at your Self, you are placing the mirror in front of others to see them. That is why you are not able to see yourself. Develop self-confidence, which will lead you to bliss. Never give room for worries and anxieties. Gain sufficient strength of the body and mind to face boldly the difficulties, losses, and sorrows that may confront you in life. This will be facilitated if you practise the four F’s taught in our educational system viz., “Follow the Master (your conscience),” “Face the Devil,” “Fight till the end,” and “Finish the game.” What is the inner meaning of the first three letters of the alphabet, A, B, C in the English language? They mean Always Be Careful. The same dictum is given by the Upanishad by exhorting a man to “arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached.”
Powerful quotes from Swami #
- “The end of education is character.”
- “Difficulties are like the waves of the ocean. They come and go. Do not be afraid of them. Have faith in God and face them with courage.”
- “You are not one person, but three: The one you think you are; The one others think you are; The one you really are.”
- “The best way to love God is to love all, serve all.”
- “Happiness is union with God.”
Building character is a lifelong process and helps us build our strength and confidence and to draw from it when situation calls for it. One has to look inward for the truth and the true self. Faith in god grows as your love for god grows and best way to love god is through serving others around us. The faith brings us to the point where we have the union with god. That is where happiness is. The journey to get there is our life and the obstacles and challenges are catalysts that god has placed in our lives to experience and learn from as part of our education and character building.
Chinna katha and stories #
Swami narrated this story at Penukonda on Feb 17th, 1964
A sannyâsî once met the Cholera Goddess on the road, returning from a village where she had thinned the population. He asked her how many she had taken into her lap. She replied: “Only ten”. But really speaking, the casualties were a hundred. She explained: “I killed only ten; the rest died out of fear!” Man is âtmâ-svarûpa (embodiment of the all-pervading divine Self), that is, abhayasvarûpa (embodiment of fearlessness). If he knows his real nature, he will give no room for weakness and cowardice.
Other examples and stories from our ancient literature that highlights various life challenges and how they were overcome.
King Harishchandra was tested by the sage Vishwamitra, who wanted to see if he could keep his promise under any circumstances. Harishchandra gave away his kingdom, his wealth, his wife Taramati and his son Rohitashva to Vishwamitra as a donation for his rajasuya yajna.
He became a slave of a cremation ground keeper and perform the duties of cremating the dead bodies. He faced many hardships and challenges, but never lied or broke his word. He even agreed to cremate his own son, who died of a snake bite.
At this point, the gods appeared and praised his integrity and devotion. They restored his son’s life, his kingdom and his wealth. They also offered him a place in heaven, but Harishchandra refused to go without his subjects. The gods were pleased with his compassion and granted him the boon of taking his entire kingdom to heaven.
The Markandeya Purana is one of the oldest Puranas in Hinduism, and it contains many stories of resilience, where the characters overcome various challenges and adversities with the help of their faith, devotion and wisdom.
Some of the stories of resilience in Markandeya Purana are:
The story of Markandeya himself, who was destined to die at the age of 16 but was saved by Lord Shiva from the clutches of Yama, the god of death, because of his intense worship of Shiva. Markandeya became immortal and witnessed the cycles of creation and destruction of the universe.
The story of Devi Mahatmya, which is a part of Markandeya Purana, and narrates how Goddess Durga defeated the powerful demon Mahishasura and his army, who had conquered the three worlds and oppressed the gods and humans. Durga manifested from the combined energies of all the gods and fought a fierce battle with Mahishasura for nine days and nights, until she finally killed him with her trident.
The story of Savitri and Satyavan, which is also a part of Markandeya Purana, and narrates how Savitri, a princess, married Satyavan, a forest-dweller, knowing that he had only one year to live. She followed him to the forest and served him with love and devotion. When Yama came to take Satyavan’s life, Savitri followed him and engaged him in a conversation, impressing him with her intelligence and courage. She asked for various boons from Yama, without directly asking for Satyavan’s life. Finally, Yama granted her the boon of having children with Satyavan, which implied that Satyavan had to be alive. Thus, Savitri outwitted Yama and brought back her husband to life.
The story of how Tenali Raman outsmarted two thieves who tried to rob his house. He overheard their plan and pretended to throw his valuables in a well. The thieves spent the whole night drawing water from the well, hoping to find the treasure, but ended up with nothing.
The story of how Tenali Raman won a horse race against an Arabian trader who boasted about his horses. He starved his horse for a few days, while the trader fed his horse well. On the day of the race, Tenali Raman took his horse near a haystack and let it loose. The hungry horse ran towards the haystack, while the trader’s horse followed it, leaving Tenali Raman as the winner. He used his presence of mind to save the prestige of his king and kingdom.
The story of Buddha and his enlightenment, which he achieved after overcoming many obstacles and temptations. He also faced opposition from his own family and society, but he remained steadfast in his quest for truth and peace. He taught the path of non-violence, compassion and meditation to end suffering in the world.
The story of Sudama and Krishna shows how friendship transcends all barriers of wealth and status. Sudama was a poor Brahmin who was a childhood friend of Krishna, the king of Dwarka. His wife asked him to go ask for help from Lord Krishna. He was initially hesitant and embarrassed to ask for help or let Krishna see him this way and concerned whether Krishna would even acknowledge how close they were in their childhood. Eventually, He visited Krishna with a humble offering of puffed rice putting aside his shame and embarassment. Krishna welcomed him with love and respect and showered him with gifts and blessings. Sudama realized that Krishna had not changed despite his royal position, and that he valued their friendship more than anything else.
The story of Garuda and Rama illustrates how devotion can overcome any difficulty. Garuda was a divine eagle who was a devotee of Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu. He had a boon from Vishnu that he could fly faster than anyone else and that he could reach any place in the world in a moment. He also had a vow that he would always help Rama whenever he needed him.
In the battle, Ravana used a powerful weapon called Brahmastra, which was a poison arrow that could kill anyone. The arrow hit Rama’s chest and made him unconscious. His brother Lakshmana also fell down due to another arrow.
The monkeys remembered Garuda’s vow and prayed to him to come and save Rama and Lakshmana. Garuda heard their prayers and flew towards the battlefield with great speed. On the way, he faced many obstacles, such as storms, mountains and enemies. He overcame them all with his faith and courage. He reached Rama’s location and saw him lying on the ground with the arrow in his chest. He used his beak to pull out the arrow and his wings to fan Rama and Lakshmana. He also sprinkled some holy water on them from his feathers.
As soon as Garuda touched them, Rama and Lakshmana regained their consciousness and felt refreshed. Rama then revealed that he had arranged this whole drama to test Garuda’s devotion and to give him an opportunity to serve him.
The story of Angulimala, which demonstrates how transformation is possible for anyone. Angulimala was a ruthless bandit who killed people and wore their fingers as a garland around his neck. He was feared by everyone, except Buddha, who approached him with compassion and wisdom. Buddha convinced Angulimala to renounce violence and follow him as a disciple. Angulimala changed his ways and became a monk who practiced meditation and charity. He attained enlightenment and peace in his life.
Examples of setbacks and challenges commonly seen in our lives #
- Setbacks can be personal, professional, financial, or environmental. Personal setbacks might include injuries, illness, mental health issues, relationship challenges, or loss of a loved one. Professional setbacks might include missing out on a promotion, not hitting a sales target, a difficult coworker, or losing a job. Financial setbacks might include debt, bankruptcy, fraud, or unexpected expenses. Environmental setbacks might include natural disasters, accidents, pandemics, or wars.
- Setbacks can vary in severity and duration. Some setbacks are minor and temporary, such as missing a deadline, having a bad day, or getting a flat tire. These setbacks can be easily overcome with some adjustments and perseverance. Other setbacks are major and long-lasting, such as divorce, disability, trauma, or bereavement. These setbacks can have a profound impact on one’s life and require more time and support to recover from.
- Setbacks can be internal or external. Internal setbacks are those that are caused by one’s own actions or decisions, such as self-sabotage, procrastination, or poor judgment. External setbacks are those that are caused by factors outside of one’s control, such as market conditions, competition, or luck. Internal setbacks can be prevented or minimized by improving one’s skills, habits, and mindset. External setbacks can be anticipated or mitigated by planning ahead, adapting to change, and seeking opportunities.
Some tips to practice #
- Get connected . Having supportive relationships with family, friends, or others can help you cope with stress and overcome challenges. Seek out people who care about you and will listen to you.
- Make every day meaningful. Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set clear and realistic goals and work towards them.
- Learn from experience. Think of how you have dealt with difficulties in the past and what skills and strategies helped you. You can also learn from the experiences of others who have faced similar situations. You probably already know something about being resilient and have skills and strategies that have helped you.
- Remain hopeful. You can’t change the past, but you can always look forward to the future. Accepting and anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.
- Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, eat well, and get enough sleep.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait for problems to go away by themselves. Take action to resolve them as soon as possible. Use your strengths and resources to overcome obstacles and find solutions. Say, ‘What am I going to do about this?’ versus, ‘When will I be released from this?’ It may not be solved overnight, but every problem can be approached somehow.
- Don’t compare your adversity to others. Recognize that your struggle is valid, no matter what you’re struggling with.
- Take a mental break. Resilient people use fantasy, books, hobbies, or friends to take a mental break from a situation that they cannot solve overnight. They protect themselves from feeling overwhelmed by it and find enjoyment in life.
Role of Spirituality (from a scientific angle) #
- Spirituality and faith help people recover. According to a study by Pardini et al. (2000), higher religious faith and spirituality are associated with increased coping, greater resilience to stress, an optimistic life orientation, greater perceived social support and lower levels of anxiety.
- Spirituality and faith can be a mental health resource or a barrier to resilience. According to Mathews (2021), spirituality can provide people with motivation, guidance, succor and hope in the face of difficulties. However, spirituality can also be used to bypass or repress emotional responses, or to feel guilty or betrayed by the Divine.
- Spirituality and faith can be part of the process of adapting to adversity. According to Foy et al. (2011), spirituality is a dynamic process that is an integral and inseparable part of humanity. They identify three main elements that resilient people possess: challenge, commitment and control.
- Spirituality and faith can enhance spiritual resilience. According to Spirit Restoration (2023), spiritual resilience is the skill to overcome hardships with the help of spirituality and faith. They suggest that spiritual resilience can be developed by practicing gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, meditation and prayer.
- Spirituality and faith can play an important role in resilience, depending on how they are understood and expressed by individuals.