Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Making a "Case" for the Reconstitution of Srila Prabhupada's "Mission"
Rasing Our Spiritual Standards

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Chapter 2
Responsibility

Part 1

“The Difference Between a Happy Human Being and a Miserable One, is That the Happy Person has Accepted That Life is Full of Problems”

Life involves problem-solving. The difference between a happy human being and a miserable one, is that the happy person has accepted that life is full of problems. The happy person likes to address the problems. The unhappy person resents the fact that life is fraught with problems and dislikes having to solve them.

Solving problems requires discipline, and willingness to consistently apply oneself to addressing them. Willingness to address problems is an important symptom of a healthy, balanced, and mature for an individual. It is also an important symptom of a healthy organization. Therefore, it is said in the corporate world, that a healthy firm is not one without any problems, but one that addresses them. Therefore, taking responsibility for one’s own problems is a symptom of health.

This all seems pretty straightforward, obvious. So obvious that it does not need mention. But it does. The issue becomes important because problem-solving takes time. Many people, intelligent people, capable people, even brilliant people, often do not want to take the time to address problems, because of the workings of the modes of nature. When a problem comes along a certain discomfort comes with it. The discomfort inspires one to want to do away with the problem as quickly as possible. One wants to find the quickest, but not necessarily the best solution to the problem.

What is actually required, is the discipline to tolerate the discomfort, while the problem is analyzed, and the most effective solution sought and applied. This involves one having the capacity to delay gratification. People who have the discipline to delay gratification are in the mode of goodness. One reason happiness in the mode of goodness is nectar in the end is that the solutions to problems are more realistic, hence longer lasting.

An otherwise intelligent and capable man, may lack the skills to perform simple household chores, like repair a bad washer in a leaky tap, or drive a few nails into a loose floorboard; but there is really nothing behind his lack of ability other than his unwillingness to take the time to properly solve his problem.

The same is true for one who is all thumbs with respect to one’s car or computer, calling in the expert to perform even the simplest repairs or defective part replacement. By investing a little time to become competent oneself, these problems can be easily solved. The same is true for many of life’s intellectual, social, and spiritual problems.

The same is true for organizational problems. Often the cause underlying an organizational problem is the leaders’ unwillingness to take the time to address it. This means the mode of passion is dominating that institution. Just as a person lacking the discipline to delay gratification and tolerate discomfort, while analyzing his problems to find the best solution cannot realize his full potential, so the organization in which this is true, cannot be all that it can be. 

It cannot reap the gains of discipline that can be achieved through assuming responsibility, and applying problem-solving intelligence. Problems are troublesome. And if they are ignored or not solved adequately, they do not go away. The one way to get rid of a problem is to solve it. Either work through it, or be stuck with it. But being stuck means that this problem remains a barrier to growth, a barrier to progress.

In the case of the individual, it is a barrier to the development of the spirit. In the case of an organization, it is a barrier to the full flowering of the organization’s mission. Thus, leadership means to accept responsibility to solve problems.

Dealing with problems is not only time-consuming, but painful. To address a problem at the first sign usually involves setting aside pleasant activity for something painful. It means leaving the frosting for last. It is a matter of taking the poison, suffering up front, with the hope of gratification in the future, instead of enjoying now, hoping that maybe the problem will go away.

This hope is rarely ever fulfilled. What generally happens is that the problem gets worse. An almost inaudible knocking sound coming from one’s car engine could be solved by an immediate infusion of engine oil. Left alone, however, when the engine finally dies, one finds out that the only solution is to replace the engine. Most problems in life follow a similar pattern. Yet a surprising proportion of the world population tries to evade problems. Psychiatrist Scott Peck speaks on this point with the voice of authority backed by experience:

“We cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them. This statement may seem idiotically tautological or self-evident, yet it is seemingly beyond the comprehension of much of the human race. This is because we must accept responsibility for a problem before we can solve it. We cannot solve a problem by saying ‘It is not my problem’. We cannot solve a problem by hoping that someone else will solve it for us. I can solve a problem only when I say, ‘This is my problem and it is up to me to solve it’. But many, so many, seek to avoid the pain of their problems by saying to themselves: ‘This problem was caused me by other people, or by social circumstances beyond my control, and therefore it is up to other people, to society, to solve this problem for me. It is not really my personal problem.”

This theme of taking responsibility is a central point in our Krishna consciousness philosophy. Arjuna wanted to escape responsibility for his problems at the onset of Bhagavad-gita, but Krishna showed him that leaving the battlefield would not be a solution to his problem. Even among those on the path to Krishna consciousness, so many times we seek to let the problem or the responsibility pass us by. Or we make a show of dealing with the problem.

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