Reflections on Inactivity

When given sufficient care, a flower will stand tall and proud. Its petals will be bright and colourful. When, however, it is not given this care, the head of the flower will start to droop. The petals may become brown. The flower will not be in good health.

The dangers of inactivity, and some solutions

Any swayamsevak or sevika is like this flower, and their attendance at shakha is like giving care to the flower. When they attend shakha regularly, sanskaars are developed. Over time, they form good habits, develop experience, and their character changes. Here, they are like the healthy flower. The fate of the flower when it is not watered, or given enough light shows the problems that may result from a lack of regular attendance in the shakha. Though they have learnt many sanskaars in the shakha, their character may regress. It may appear as if those sanskaars have never been inculcated. Some of their habits may be bad rather than good. Though temporary absence from the shakha will not produce this effect, prolonged absence inevitably will.

This problem seems to be particularly acute in swayamsevaks and sevikas at university. During the two or three-month term, there may be no time to attend shakha. There may be no shakha in that town or city, or it may be inaccessible. Involvement in the Hindu society at the university may be limited, if at all there is a society. In this way, two or three months can pass without any meaningful dharmic experiences. The swayamsevak or sevika may return from university improved in some respects, but without some qualities which they had previously possessed. The problem multiplies if they do not attend shakha whilst at home. There is no chance for the flower to spring into life again; it continues to wilt.

Superficially, the solution is a simple one: to ensure some involvement either in a local shakha, NHSF (UK) chapter or university Hindu society. University life, however, is full of distractions. It is easier to make excuses not to attend shakha, or the weekly aarti or the other events arranged by the Hindu society.

Our mindset in such a situation is crucial. At this point, we must remember that Sangh is not merely another activity or society that we attend every week. It is a way of life. It builds characters. The attributes of each person are the function of a variety of inputs: for swayamsevaks and sevikas, Sangh and Samiti are almost inevitably one of these inputs. Sangh is something that has a profound effect on the direction of our lives and who we are.

Once we have this mindset, the importance of Sangh is clear, and so practical changes are likely to bear more fruit. With a busy university schedule, we often think that there is no time to do something. Instead, we must make time for Sangh. As far as possible, we must try and make attendance at shakha or our local Chapter’s events a ‘non-negotiable’ part of our schedule. Of course, we may not all be able to do this all the time. In these cases, we must find other ways of maintaining a link to Sangh: reading Sangh literature, speaking to swayamsevaks from our home shakha, or even listening to Sangh geet. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming the flowers that wilt for want of care.

The importance of simplicity: a Tarun swayamsevak attends a Baal gana bauddhik

“A Tarun swayamsevak can learn a lot from a Baal gana bauddhik”. This statement seems, at first sight, counter-intuitive. The purpose of a bauddhik is to challenge the intellect, to impart knowledge, and provide a basis for self-inspiration. We expect a Tarun swayamsevak to know whatever will be imparted in a Baal bauddhik, and that he will have found deeper philosophical or spiritual means of inspiration. Despite this, I believe that a great deal can be learnt from a few very simple ideas. The key factor here is reflection.

The bauddhik given the last time I attended shakha is a superficially simple one: the content of four of the five Yamas (social conduct), and their position within the broader spectrum of yoga. The five Yamas, taken as a package, are fundamental building blocks of being Hindu.

  • ahimsa: non-harm
  • satya: truth and integrity
  • asteya: not stealing
  • brahmacharya: self-control and moderation
  • aparigraha: non-avarice

We can gain a great deal from reflecting on whether we apply these concepts within our lives. Are we causing harm to ourselves or others by our behaviour or attitudes? Do we stay true to the values that we consider the most important? Are we regularly taking more than what we need to conduct our lives? Are we able to strike a balance between enjoying ourselves and doing what needs to be done?

The answers to these questions may pinpoint where we need to review our conduct, and how we might make any necessary adjustments. Sometimes, going back to basics might bear more fruit than exploring complex philosophical and spiritual ideas.

The problem of inactivity and ‘being Hindu’

Our vision is to live a dharmic lifestyle: to ‘be Hindu’ in all that we do.This means that our actions, attitude and behaviour must be underpinned by values such as those highlighted above. Maintaining dharmic activity is a prerequisite for this. We must remember that it is a means rather than an end in itself. By attending shakha or the events of our NHSF (UK) Chapter, we acquire sanskaars. Without this means, we cannot have the ‘dharmic decision-making’ necessary in order to ‘be Hindu’ in all that we do; our behaviour will instead be guided by other considerations. Remaining active is therefore key for not only intrinsic, but instrumental reasons.

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