With the season of board exam results upon us, we decided to put a word out for those who didn’t fare well and began to think, foolishly, that it’s the end of the road for them. Academic performance is a poor, unreliable barometer for success and happiness in life. Below, we present an excerpt from a book for students — of all ages — about smart ways to learn, and also, how to combat failure. Read and share as widely as possible.
It was past midnight on a cold winter night. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong had managed to go wrong and in the most dramatic way.
I had yet again flunked.
My stock in IIT had dipped substantially. In a place where grades are God, getting an F was sure to make you a social pariah, even if you happened to be a very nice person who was superbly talented in things other than academics.
My best friend had found a girlfriend and didn’t have any time for me any more. I was far away from my piano and my music. I had not yet learnt to meditate. The future looked very bleak. I was miserable, lonely and fed up with life.
There was some demon in my mind that was feeding my thoughts with all the negativity that it could.
Almost automatically, without thinking, I found myself walking out of our hostel and along the road that led to the lake. Someone called out to me but I ignored him. The trees cast long ominous shadows as wind whistled through them and there was a ghostly mist. I walked alone in the chill night air, shivering slightly.
I reached the lake. City lights twinkled in the distance. There were millions of people with millions of dreams and hopes out there. But I was alone. There didn’t seem any hope for me. There was some sort of roaring sound in my ears. The dark waters of the lake lapped the shore silently, inviting me in.
I took a hesitant step towards the water. Something was holding me back, but I shook it off. Enough of this life. Another more determined step. And another…
I resolutely went into the water and had a shock. The water was too cold. Somehow it woke me up. Brought me back to my senses. The roaring in my mind stopped and was replaced by calm serene feeling.
Life is for living.
And then my customary sense of humour took over. I told myself there was no way I was going to drown in this ridiculously cold water. Too uncomfortable. Me, who would make such a fuss about taking a bath in anything other than piping hot water, committing suicide in the middle of winter in cold water?! Unthinkable!
I grinned and then laughed. Suddenly, all the good wonderful things I had been blessed with flashed through my mind. Warmth enveloped me as I made my way back to the hostel. The mist seemed inviting and friendly; the trees seemed to be sighing in relief. I went back to my hostel, to my friends, to my books and to my life. Somehow, things didn’t seem to be so terrible any more.
I was lucky. Many aren’t.
Suicide is simply not an option. It is always completely out of the question. Suicide is a spiritual crime and is the absolutely worst thing you can do to yourself.
However bad life gets, suicide will only make it worse. When you drop the body, you don’t drop the mind. That comes along with you. When you have the body and you are feeling terrible, stressed, angry, tired, depressed, there is so much you can do. You can scream, shout, cry, lash out … You can express your grief in so many ways.
Just imagine the exact same state of mind, all the misery, turmoil, frustration, sadness … but at the same time, without a body to be able to express them. Suicide does that. It takes away the body, but it leaves you with an overwhelmingly disturbed mind and no way to free yourself from that distress. No way to sob or shout or express anything. Just a ball of black negativity.
Your worst nightmare is nothing compared to what happens to you if you commit suicide.
Suicide is karmic catastrophe.
Our scriptures say that when we die, our soul stays in limbo for a maximum of thirteen days. This is not a pleasant place to be in. Most souls stay there for a very brief period of time and then move on to other higher realms, other planes of existence. But a person who commits suicide can stay in this limbo realm for a few hundred years. If and when they finally manage to get a body again, it is usually deformed and they are condemned to live through circumstances far worse than they were in when they took their own lives.
People resort to suicide to get relief from pain. Paradoxically, they forget that relief is a feeling and they need to be alive to feel it.
Suicide is an extreme form of depression. The reasons for the depression could be anything, ranging from disappointment in love, business or academics, to anything else as well. The resulting pain and stress lead to feelings of emptiness and hopelessness, to illness due to chemical imbalances in the brain.
Bad grades or business decisions and failures are just mistakes. Learn from them and move on. Sooner or later you will succeed. And what if someone who you love doesn’t love you back? Don’t bother thinking about it; that simply means they have bad taste. Nature is saving you up for someone really special! Move on…
Depression basically stems from the question ‘What about me?’
Feeling suicidal indicates very low energy levels and no wisdom. People think of suicide when pain seems to exceed the resources available for coping with that pain. People having such thoughts are not weak, crazy, flawed or lacking in will power. It may not even mean that they actually want to die. It simply means they have more pain than they can cope with right now. There are many kinds of pain that may lead to suicide. What may be bearable to someone may be unbearable to someone else.
Suicide is damaging the body to put an end to mental pain. That’s like putting a Band-Aid on your toe hoping it will make your headache go away. Or removing all your clothes because you are feeling very cold.
There are two ways of dealing with suicidal thoughts. One is to increase your ability to bear pain, the other, to increase your resource base. Both are possible. One of the simplest ways I know to make both happen is learning and practising meditation and doing some sort of social service. Meditation will help you quickly snap out of it.
The most authentic thing about us human beings is our capacity to love, to laugh, to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform and to be greater than whatever challenges life throws at us.
Gurudev once said, ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.’
There are always reasons to be thankful if you look hard enough for them. Even if there has been darkness for a thousand years in some place, it doesn’t take a thousand years to bring light. One lit candle can dispel a thousand years of darkness in less than a second. Once even a spark of gratitude comes, in no time it becomes a blazing fire and all these thoughts vanish like dew on a hot summer morning.
When I wrote an article about suicide on my blog a few years ago, Ashwani commented on it. I reproduce that comment here almost verbatim:
Few months back I had this strong feeling to commit suicide again …What helped me out this time were three things:
1. The scenes from Munnabhai M.B.B.S and Lage Raho Munnabhai: One place Munna shouts at a young guy in a hospital who attempted suicide over failed love – ‘For a girl you met ninety days back, you are going to kill yourself … Can’t you live for your mother who has loved you for nineteen years?’ (Sounds better in Hindi.)
In Lage Raho Munnabhai, he says to another young man who has lost Rs 7 lakhs of his father’s life savings in shares and is contemplating suicide – ‘Don’t talk nonsense! You think your father will be overjoyed when he sees your lifeless body? The same shoulders on which he carried you when you were a child will carry your dead body. How do you think it will make him feel? Proud? Arrey, for months he won’t even believe that you have died … He will dial your phone number again and again hoping to hear your voice…’
2. I used to think that I am a very weak person because I was thinking of suicide and that made me feel even worse … until I read a part of Autobiography of a Yogi, even Swami Paramahamsa thought of ‘hurling his body in front of a speeding train’. If he can have such feelings then me having the same feelings is utterly forgivable.
3. One of my friends Pradeep died in a bike accident some years ago. I’ll never forget how inconsolable and shattered his parents were when they saw his battered body. I will never knowingly do that to my parents or to the people whom I love or who love me. I am not THAT selfish!
I have one question though, Bau, I sometimes wonder why people meet with such terrible consequences. Even when they are spiritual and meditate, sometimes they die in such a tragic way. Why does this happen? I cannot understand this.
I replied to him: We all die, whether it is through some disease or an accident, young or old, death is certain … We usually want to do all the negative things immediately. Getting angry, badmouthing someone, gossiping. We want to do that now.
Life is fragile and this is all the more reason not to postpone the important things in life … saying ‘I love you’, and ‘thank you’, smiling and laughing and singing and dancing and meditating and going for walks and flying kites and playing and studying (!) and doing as many advance courses (the Art of Living Advanced Meditation Courses) as you possibly can, spending more time with the people who truly matter.
Postponing the bad stuff and doing all the good stuff right away is a fantastic habit.
Spirituality is not here to save you from death. Spirituality helps you enjoy life. For a spiritual person, (natural) death is simply a longer sleep than usual.
Spirituality makes sure that if and when you do come back, you have a say in it. When you are enlightened, you don’t have to come back. You choose to come back and play with life.
Death is the ultimate adventure. But like all good things, you have to wait for it to happen; otherwise it becomes a tragedy and a calamity. Work, play, love, live, laugh, sing, dance, meditate, do some social service and most importantly, quieten your mind.
This will make you happy, peaceful, satisfied and successful in the Here and the Hereafter!
(Excerpted with permission from Ready, Study, Go! Smart Ways to Learn by Khurshed Batliwala and Dinesh Ghodke, published by HarperCollins India. Buy the book here: http://amzn.to/2qy14wg)