All spiritual masters insist on the value of acceptance. They tell us to accept all that life gives us. To accept its joys with its pain, its ugliness with its beauty. We, however, practice selective acceptance. Even those who thank God when good things happen to them get upset when calculations and expectations go awry. We tend to judge every situation and experience as good or bad, happy or unhappy.
This metric of good and bad arises from certain preconceived definitions, oblivious of the fact that all definitions are relative. What is good in one situation is bad in another. What is happy for one person is unhappy for another. In war, for instance, what is defeat for one side is victory for the other. Another deep-set assumption is echoed in this common question, ‘why should this happen to me?’ The real question ought to be, ‘why shouldn’t this happen?’ In moments of grief caused by death or sickness, our minds are clouded by such questions arising from false notions of being someone special.
At the root of this is the working of the ego. Ego tells us that we are special and misfortunes should not be happening to us. At such times, the mind draws as guarantee all our past good deeds.
Equanimity in joy and grief can arise only when we surrender to the Supreme Will. This needs a realistic reappraisal of human will with all its possibilities and limitations. However, ego keeps on magnifying human will. True liberation comes when one is able to recognise this falsehood and look beyond.
When the Buddha asked the bereaved Sujata to locate a house where death has not visited, the message was that misery and joy are inherent in human life. If we are able to see both happiness and unhappiness as messengers of life, then we can smile at them as expected visitors. We begin to see the unfolding grand design of life of which we are a tiny part. Then we realise why mystics exhort to ‘dance when you are broken’.