Of Masters & Slaves

The other day I met a friend of mine during my morning walk. We discussed a number mundane subjects and then he said something interesting about rituals and superstitions. He said: “I can understand why I need to follow rituals since I know their significance. However, when it comes to superstitions, I’m unable to reconcile. For instance, I’m so conditioned to observe ‘Rahu Kaalam’, ‘Yamagandam’ etc knowing fully it’s all ridiculous.  My wife says I’m wasting close to 3 hours in a day by observing these”.(Rahu kaalam & Yamagandam are considered as inauspicious times of the day) .

He also considers it inauspicious if a cat were to cross his path. I said: ‘Yes, it’s exactly like an alcoholic not able to kick the habit and claiming helplessness’. My friend didn’t find my analogy palatable. However, I continued with another equally unpalatable comparison. I said: ‘A colleague of mine in the office who is used to chewing tobacco also says he is helpless’. He was offended by this and countered: ‘How can you compare alcohol & tobacco with my superstitions’. I said: “What’s the big difference. Both are vices and they control you. An alcoholic is hurting his body while you are hurting your mind. Look at it objectively. Tobacco is the cruel master and the victim is a slave. Alcohol is another ruthless master and the alcoholic is a desperate slave. Likewise, in your case, the cat, the Rahu kalam & the Yamagandam are the masters and like a slave you comply obediently’. Trying to divert the issue, he commented that I was influenced by J Krishnamurthy! I took it as a compliment and thanked him. I hastened to add that I may be influenced by JK but I fight my own battles against my childhood indoctrination.

After a little reflection, my friend agreed with me and said: ‘Yes, I guess unless I treat it like a vice enslaving me I won’t be able to get rid of the same’.

The point is that when it comes to ‘our’ vices we would not like them to be characterized as such. Even if we concede them as vices, they will be considered minor. As JK is fond of saying, unless we view every conditioning as a house on fire, we will not act to put an end to it.

Touching on another personal issue, my friend said: I’m going to take retirement completely after a couple of years (He is already 67-year-old and is still professionally active). I said: ‘You better develop some other activity before retiring’. He said that’s the most difficult part. I told him: ‘You are an astrologer with a completely different approach to astrology. I always admired your approach on the practical application of astrology to life.Why don’t you write a book explaining your views’. He said: ‘I will become controversial, if I do that’. I said: What’s at stake at this age and stage of your life? This time he at once agreed with me : Yes – that will be my new mantra – what’s at stake’!  I said, for that matter, there’s nothing at stake at any stage of life.  But then because of societal pressures and expectations right from the childhood most of us go through our lives like robots mechanically. We study and take up jobs to satisfy our parents’ ambitions. We get married and have children just because everybody else is doing the same thing. We, finally, retire one day and in turn condition our children also to follow the same beaten track. Sad but true. Isn’t it?

 

PS: After writing this post, I gathered that Vedanta has a lot to say on mental conditioning which is extremely enlightening as well as practical. I will try to summarize this in my next post.

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