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Make Mistakes and Learn

Man’s nature can be described as three-fold: spiritual, intellectual and instinctive. It is the instinctive nature, the animal-like nature, which contains the tendencies to harm others. Men who are expressing those tendencies are young souls who need to learn to harness this force. The Sanatan Dharma approach to such a man is not to label him evil, but rather to focus on helping him learn to control his instincts and improve his behaviour.

Important insights into the soul’s maturing process can be gained by looking at the three powers of God — the power of desire; the power of action; and the power of wisdom — which are also the three powers of the soul. We first have a desire, and when the desire becomes strong enough, we act. In young souls the action may be ill-conceived, even against dharma. For example, a man wants a computer, so he steals one. Money is needed, so he robs a bank. The soul is often caught up in repeating a cycle of similar experiences, moving back and forth from desire to action, desire to action, until the needed lesson is learned. In the case of the adharmic action of stealing, eventually one learns the lesson that this is not the best way to acquire possessions. This learning is the wisdom, causing his behaviour to improve.

For all of mankind, no matter where one is on the path, spiritual advancement comes from improving one’s behaviour or in other words, learning from one’s mistakes. Unfortunately, this process is often inhibited by the idea that somehow, we are not supposed to make mistakes, that mistakes are bad. We grow up being scolded for our mistakes by our parents. Teachers ridicule students when they make mistakes. Supervisors yell at workers when they make a mistake. No wonder many adults feel terrible when they make a mistake. To spiritually benefit from our mistakes, we need a new attitude toward them. Swamiji describes mistakes as “wonderful opportunities to learn.” He compared learning from life’s experiences to progressing through the classes at a university. Life is a series of experiences, one after another. Each experience can be looked at as a classroom in the big university of life if we only approach it that way. Who is going to these classrooms? Who is the member of this university of life? It’s not our instinctive mind. It’s not our intellectual mind. It’s the body of our soul, our superconscious self, that wonderful body of light. It’s maturing under the stress and strain.

Societies and nations must protect themselves with appropriate actions that restrain wrongful behaviours. But even while punishing those who act with malicious intent, let us remember they, too, are souls on the journey of spiritual maturity and discovery. Let the focus be not on categorising humans as good or evil but on encouraging all to improve their behaviour, by applying the appropriate remedies and sanctions.

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Girish Borkar

Girish Borkar

Spirituality ... meditation ... insights ... inner peace ... the journey continues... love and gratitude