The importance of being good
Goodness is foolishness?
The world seems to be made for the corrupt and those with a bent of mind to cheat and swindle others. On the face of it, one feels that those that who are good and sincere are bound to suffer. And that is reinforced again and again in the face of several crises that humanity faces today - the financial meltdowns, immoral behaviour, environmental degradation, poverty etc. Politicians may not be everywhere but people with a great capacity and appetite for dirty politics seem to abound like cockroaches! In such an environment being a good person seems synonymous with being a fool and a victim. It makes one wonder as to how the world will ever change if the good seem to be punished and the bad rewarded.
However, my Master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, begs to differ. He says that truth always triumphs and goodness always prevails. And so, whenever I am plagued with this doubt about the importance of being good, I recollect His various discourses on goodness. And when there are things that I am unable to explain to myself, I remind myself of the all-encompassing Karma Yoga. But I never yield to the temptation of concluding that goodness is no good because somewhere deep within, I agree completely with my Master.
It is in this light that an example I witnessed became an inspirational force in being good. And that came in the form of a 1978 British war film, Force 10 from Navarone.
The ‘dam’ of great potential
I must briefly recapitulate some scenes from the movie. Set during the world war II, the movie, based on an Alistair MAcLean novel of the same name is all about ultimately destroying a very important bridge. This concrete arch bridge is vital for the transport of the German troops and a bomb expert, Miller, has been enlisted in the team to demolish the bridge.
The bridge is found to be impregnable and so, the situation seems hopeless. Suddenly, one member of the team comes up with an idea - Why not destroy the dam upstream? Then, the force of the gushing waters will surely down the bridge.
With this plan, the team sets out to the dam. They encounter many difficulties but the greatest problem they face when they get there is, a realization that the dam is too huge and their explosives too few. This is when Miller displays his brilliance in choosing spots to place the explosives. Having done so, the team retreats to a safe distance and detonates the explosives.
Once the detonation is done, Miller walks away and begins to lounge on a tree in complete relaxation. The other team members watch in horror as the dam stands without any semblance of having been hit! All that the explosives manage is to open a few cracks through which water starts shooting out - sufficient to water crops maybe but definitely not enough to make any impact on the bridge! They are worried. They tell Miller that everything had gone wrong and wonder how he is so relaxed.
Over time, the water jets gushing from the little cracks slowly start eating away the dam from the insides. Though nothing seems to be happening on the outside, the dam is getting inundated on the inside. A critical mass is reached and suddenly after an hour, for no apparent reason, the whole dam crumbles down releasing a deluge of water. The water gushes forth and destroys the bride as Miller flashes a knowing smile.
The water of goodness
Just as there was no need for the whole dam to be brought down to allow the water to gush out, the whole world need not become good for goodness to gush forth and destroy the seemingly impregnable bridge of the enemies. What matters here is that each one of us decide to become like those tiny chinks in the dam through which the waters of goodness flow out.
If we decide to become channels for the flow of goodness, though everything seems lost and nothing impactful seems to be happening, it is only a matter of time before wesee the tide change. Miller in the movie reminds me of my Master in that respect - calm and composed because he is absolutely certain of what is going to happen. Swami knows that people allowing goodness to flow through them and becoming channels of love, peace and goodness is the way to solve all the crises that humanity faces. And once He sees that people are being good, He sits back and relaxes. Members of His team question Him,
“How can you relax? The work is not done yet! The whole mission has been a failure!”
He is calm for He has brilliantly placed the explosives of His Love, Grace and Inspiration at the strategic points. Now it is only a question of time. Though nothing seems to be happening on the outside, there is a great catharsis of bad and inundation of good that is happening inside.
And so, there is no need for cracks to develop all over the dam. As long as the cracks that have been made allow the waters of goodness through and do not get clogged by defeat, dejection, doubt and disappointment, it is enough! And that is indeed an inspiration for me to continue to be good. It is indeed a great chance to be the crack through which the waters of goodness flow. Little wonder that St.Francis of Assissi prayed thus,
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord
And where there's doubt, true faith in you.
Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
People may consider goodness as weakness or madness but as can be seen, being good indeed means becoming ‘channels’ or ‘cracks’! :)
A message from the Master...
So goodness is a sacrifice is it?
Okay! So once a ‘critical mass’ is reached, the dam will break and goodness will flow from all sides. But till then, what? Are all those who are good to become martyrs?
In one of his awareness classes, Prof.G.Venkatraman, Padma Shri awardee and a great scientist of modern India, said,
“When a person is ready to die for the nation, what is wrong in being ready to become a martyr for Dharma (Righteousness/Goodness)? We celebrate soldiers who die for a cause. So why not give Dharma the same benefit?”
Thought-provoking question indeed but not a very good incentive for being good. In the conclusion of His treatise on Dharma, the Dharma Vahini, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba states,
“Your Raksha (Saviour) from that siksha (punishment) is this Dharmasikshana (learning Dharma)!”
The whole book explains the rationale behind this statement. One powerful example that He gives will suffice as a summary,
The world is like a dark cluttered room. Hoping to change the world is like hoping to improve matters in a dark room by a mere readjustment of furniture. If however a lamp is lit, even without that readjustment, passage across the room is rendered easier. There is no need to interfere with the furniture at all. That lamp of your goodness may not de-clutter the room. But it will ensure that your passage is safe and smooth.
Goodness therefore, is not a sacrifice but an insurance. The ancient Indian scriptures proclaim,
“Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha” (Righteousness/Goodness protects those that protect Righteousness/Goodness)
“Dharma Eva Hatho Hanthi” (Righteousness/Goodness destroys those that destroy Righteousness/Goodness)
The question now is, would I side with the dam and bridge that are apparently impregnable or be a drop of water that seems apparently powerless?
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