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Contentment not Comparison: Mahabharata Katha

In our day to day lives, we see so many peo­ple around us depressed and sad because they feel that they haven’t done as good as anoth­er per­son. For most peo­ple, it is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to see the unique­ness of one­self and the indi­vid­ual con­tri­bu­tion that one can make. They end up com­par­ing them­selves based on incor­rect para­me­ters that are not applic­a­ble to their life sit­u­a­tions and this results in inse­cu­ri­ty about one’s posi­tion on life. Here is a clas­si­cal sto­ry and mes­sage from the Mahab­hara­ta. This nar­ra­tive appears in the Shan­ti Par­va (Sec­tion 180) of the Mahab­harath as nar­rat­ed by Bhish­ma to Yud­hishthi­ra.

A wealthy man com­plete­ly blind­ed by his pow­er and posi­tion hits a Rishi of the Kashya­pa lin­eage while trav­el­ling in his char­i­ot. The Rishi who was com­plete­ly offend­ed by this act, thought to him­self that such a life of pover­ty with no respect was not worth liv­ing. He was think­ing of cast­ing off his life. At that moment, Lord Indra appeared in the form of a jack­al and spoke to the Rishi. He said “Oh Rishi! You are a per­son of great birth and that too learned in the Vedas. Such a mer­it is hard to obtain by many. Hav­ing obtained some­thing so pre­cious, you should not be giv­ing up your life for such a triv­ial rea­son”. The jack­al added “look at me. I don’t have hands that can remove these thorns. You are lucky to have been born as a human and that too as a learned per­son edu­cat­ed in the Vedas. Peo­ple who are rich want to become kings, then they want to become Gods and then the chief of Gods. You are learned and already equal to God, then why do you cov­et wealth oh Rishi?. Thirst for acquir­ing only flares up as we get more things. Hap­pi­ness and sor­row are with­in onself. So be con­tend­ed oh learned man!”. The jack­al con­tin­ued “Peo­ple live like ser­vants of mon­ey and keep dying and tak­ing birth. Yet there seems to be no change in atti­tude. Nev­er com­pare your­self with anoth­er as you have attained this posi­tion by per­form­ing your duties prop­er­ly. You poss­es great knowl­edge and com­pe­tence. Do not com­pare your­self with a per­son who is arro­gant because of his wealth. You already are a great per­son”

Lord Indra beau­ti­ful­ly high­lights the impor­tance of the mer­its that one has obtained and when one acts accord­ing one’s swad­har­ma, suc­cess is bound to hap­pen. There is no need for com­par­i­son as one can­not pos­sess every­thing in the world and no mat­ter what one pos­sess­es it still seems inad­e­quate. A life of con­tent­ment is a life of hap­pi­ness.

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