What makes the aforesaid quote special is that it came from not just any Tom, Dick, or Harry but a mathematician extraordinaire. Someone whose theorems and equations took decades for other accomplished mathematicians to comprehend. His ideas were so novel and ahead of his time, that most of the leading professional mathematicians just didn’t get it at all. I am talking about Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887 – 1920). I doubt there’s any serious mathematician who wouldn’t have heard of him.
His life took an incredible turn when Prof. G. H. Hardy at Cambridge University took note of his work (it takes a genius to see one). Hardy recognized that Ramanujan had produced groundbreaking new theorems, including some that “defeated me completely; I had never seen anything in the least like them before.” 1
I read The Man Who Knew Infinity sometime in the summer of 2013. I don’t even know why Amazon recommended this book to me but I’m glad it did, for you get a peek into the beautiful mind and short life of Ramanujan. What struck me the most, amongst other things, was his bold proclamation of his beliefs. Religious beliefs to be precise.
And, it’s only the bold people, the rebels and misfits, the leaders, and people who are destined to change the course of history that have the courage to step out into the world and declare what they believe in. Think about it. What would you do if you were in Ramanujan’s shoes? Would you venture out into a new land, surrounded by people from a completely different culture, and go public with your beliefs? That too in a scientific community? Imagine the ridicule you’d face. 2 But that’s the thing, my friend, if you are afraid of what people might think of you just because you believe in something, you are severely limiting yourself from realizing your potential. You are doing great injustice to your individuality as well as your existence. As they say, “You wouldn’t worry about what people may think of you if you could know how seldom they do.”
Want to know what inspired me to write today’s post? No? Doesn’t matter, just read on (smile).
Two weeks ago just when I was about to publish the last post, I stumbled upon a question by a lovely user, a young scientific mind looking to make his mark in the world. This question was right there, on the os.me homepage. As follows:
Sometimes people google my name for academic purposes. Later, they come to me with all sorts of questions like: Are you interested in spirituality? You follow a monk? Is he any good? Are you sure he is not fooling you?
My spiritual interests and my journey is very personal…
So, if you know of any way of keeping my os.me profile away from google-search made on my name, kindly suggest. Maybe the os.me admin can also help. (Full question here.)
I thought it was interesting. It never occurred to me that many of our users don’t want others to know that they read or write on os.me. I mean I knew that most didn’t want anyone to know that they might be following some monk. It’s quite understandable. In the name of gurus, swamis, and monks, we have plenty of charlatans, crooks, and tricksters in this world. [Ab]use of religion continues to be a cash cow on many fronts. But that our readers would see being on os.me as following me personally was not how I saw it, I must admit. The site’s heading, homepage, community, and forums don’t carry the name Om Swami. So this was quite insightful. Now, I’m no longer surprised that in my 12+ years of writing here and nearly 2 years of os.me community, our engagement is not in the millions, or in the hundreds or tens of thousands but merely in the low thousands. Why? Because when you stick to the truth and choose not to dilute it for mass appeal, you will always have few takers.
Before I go on any further, however, I want to make three things absolutely clear:
- There’s nothing wrong with wanting to mark your profile private. It’s 100% okay and it’s your right and this feature must be there on os.me. I wholeheartedly support the idea. So much that it should have been there already.
- I understand it is not always possible to share with the world your beliefs because a, everyone’s circumstances are different, and b, it’s just easier that way for the most part.
- It shows we have a lot to do on os.me so that if anything, our users should be proud of being on this platform. Not with their flowery words written in comments to me but in actions where they share the existence of os.me with the whole world.
To that effect, I want to thank Pijush Pratim Sarmah and others who raised the issue because, as I said, it has given us some actionable insight.
At the same time, it’s important to differentiate between personal and private. Something is personal when I feel that it doesn’t and shouldn’t concern others, certainly not the world at large. What they think or don’t is irrelevant because it’s my personal matter. Whether they approve of it is altogether immaterial because it’s none of their business. It’s indicative of strength, identity, and individuality.
Private, on the other hand, is a different paradigm altogether. A matter can still be private irrespective of the fact whether it’s a social or personal affair. Private is when I want to shield something, for whatever reason, from the inquisitive or prying eyes of the world. I don’t necessarily want to keep it a secret but I certainly don’t want others to know about it: that’s private.
If some of the greatest people who walked on this planet kept all their personal matters private, the world would be a very different place, probably for the worse.
Think Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Buddha, Guru Nanak, Christ, or Ramanujan for that matter. These souls made their personal affairs public. They could have kept their views to themselves and all would be well. The easier way out was to make their personal beliefs private but they made a different choice: they stood on top of the world and proclaimed loud and clear whatever they believed in. So, I ask you (rhetorically), what do you stand for? And whatever it is that you stand for, that’s the spine of your life, your backbone. The stronger, the better.
I don’t think there’s any significant aspect of my life that I haven’t shared with you or made public. I could have kept my spiritual journey a private matter, for it was a deeply personal affair. I chose to not only make it public but to also write a book about it. Believe me, it wasn’t particularly joyous or convenient, but I felt it was the right thing to do.
Can your belief withstand the test of courage? In the absence of courage any belief, however sublime, can never be your backbone but only a crutch. The Vedic ideology is dying a slow death, it’s facing an imminent extinction (more on this another time). And the chief cause of that is just that: the absence of courage by its followers. What should have been only personal has become private.
As for os.me, it doesn’t belong to me or a particular belief. It is your spiritual wellness platform. Ever striving to be the kindest and most truthful corner on the internet. You can be physically, emotionally, and mentally strong but if you are spiritually unwell, life has little meaning. We will take more steps to make this platform even more neutral so that no one has to ever hide the fact that they read articles on os.me or better still, write for os.me. After all, you wouldn’t hide that you write on Medium or the New York Post or WSJ or anything else. As a platform, we clearly lack that. Give me some time.
No Mulla joke today. But, I do have another one:
Around six years ago, a beautiful soul asked me this question at the ashram: “Swamiji,” he said, “sometimes when I tell people that I’m visiting Om Swami Ashram they confuse you with the notorious and infamous Swami Om of Bigg Boss. They start asking me all sorts of questions. What should I tell them?”
The world doesn’t have to know that you follow me. In fact, not only is it better that way but I prefer it too. But, you don’t have to hide what you believe in. In other words, what you believe in is more important than who you believe in. Now more than ever before, we need more courage, kindness, and truth in the world. Either you are in or you are not. Make up your mind. How will you inspire future generations if you keep your truth private?
As for me, every person who has ever followed me, met me, or looked up to me in any capacity, I have only ever prayed for your wellbeing. If I may quote the famous Sufi lines to share what song fountains forth when I think of you, it is:
Hor ki mangna mein rab kolo ik khair manga tere dum di, Baaj sajan lajpaal tere main ko jiyan kehde kam di, Pal pal maane sukhve hazaara ghadi vekhe na koi alam di, Ho badar hamesha maula rakhe dhola tainte nazar karam di, Nit khair manga soniya main teri dua na koi hor mangdi All I pray for is your wellbeing, what else is there to ask from God anyway, For, what meaning does this life have without you, May each moment of life bring you untold happiness and you never have to go through even a moment of suffering, May God always cast his merciful glance on you, Every day I pray for your wellbeing and nothing else. (In case you fancy listening to the whole thing, here it is in the divine voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.)
A million ordinary things are possible if you maintain the status quo. But the one extraordinary thing that will change you forever is impossible without a leap of faith. And such leaps are a public affair. Always.
|↟1||I first read this quote in The Man Who Knew Infinity, but you can also find a reference on his Wikipedia page.|
|↟2||The scientific fraternity can be brutal in trolling those who don’t sound logical or scientific. After all, at one time, they denounced Newton when his notes containing his views of the occult and religion were discovered posthumously. You can read about his religious views here.|