“When it is time to sorrow, don’t grieve. When it is time to be delighted, don’t be happy. Forget the past and the future. Be concerned only with the present.” Who do you think said this? You will probably think it is a subhashitam and indeed, there is a famous subhashitam that sounds similar. If I add a few more quotes from the same passage, they will vaguely remind you of the Bhagavad Gita. The quote I gave you is from the Mahabharata, from the Shanti Parva, from the Moksha Dharma section of the Shanti Parva. Let me use the word asura as a general synonym for demons. Not all asuras were bad. As I told you, towards the end of the last blog, asuras like Bali, Namuchi and Prahlada/Prahrada were dislodged from their prosperity. Indra went to visit them, expecting them to grieve and sorrow. Instead, Indra found that they were cheerful enough and was puzzled. The Mahabharata thus has extensive sections where these asuras teach Indra.
In a similar way, when our mind turns towards tamas, we seem to be attracted to such people and they are bad for us. When our mind turns away from tamas, we seem to be attracted towards better people and they are good for us. There are positive and negative feedback loops and synergies. Have I said something very obvious? I am not sure. I am not talking about the very obvious recommendation of satsang, association with good and virtuous people. I am talking about something that is a little more than that. Obviously, association with good people tends to bring out the best in us, as long as it lasts for more than that temporary association. I am making a slightly different point. Our lives are rarely on a steady path. There are ups and downs, there are cycles. At some points, we are worse (in that sense of dharma) than at others. Why does that happen? In the broader scheme of things, that gets into questions of destiny. What happens because of destiny? What happens because of human action? What happens because of pure chance, separate from preordained destiny and human action? Not just Hinduism, but all kinds of sacred texts have grappled with this free will problem. At some point, we need to revisit this again. We need to talk about karma and what it means.