In the Mahabharata, after the Pandavas come back from their exile of 13 years, as the consequence of the ill fated game of dice, Duryodhana goes back on his promise of handing them back the Kingdom of Indraprastha. Despite being counselled by his wise advisors and a personal effort by Lord Krishna himself, Duryodhana refuses to part with it saying, according to Devdutt Patnaik’s rendition of the great epic, “I will not part with Indraprastha. I rule it well. No one wants the gamblers back.” The Lord replies,”A word is a word. Whether you rule well or not does not matter. You promised to return Indraprastha after the Pandavs returned from 13 years of humiliating exile. They kept their word. You do too.”
Duryodhana flatly refuses. In fact he says he is unwilling to part with “Even a needlepoint of territory.”
Lord Krishna says to him, “By going back on your word, you have destroyed the foundation of Dharma. By refusing to a compromise for the sake of peace, you have made yourself unfit to rule.”
When I read this I was immediately struck by it. In a different, more personal context. While we are conditioned to think of Duryodhana as wrong, I am not that interested in the morality of the subject. What I am interested in however is how keeping our word to others and especially to ourselves strengthens or weakens us. How many times do we decide on a course of action, or a way of being and fail to do so practically. We all know how many New Years resolutions we end up keeping😀.
How often do we think that I’ll just watch one episode of ‘Money Heist’ and end up binge watching because in that moment our desire, our emotions have a complete grip over our decision making.
Last night I watched an episode of the show Bandish Bandits. You know how these shows operate. The excitement provided at the end is meant to induce you to watch the next one immediately. So when it got over, the temptation to watch another one was very high. Much more than the previous days. I had decided when I started watching the show that I will not watch more than one episode a day. For four nights I stuck to my resolution without much difficulty. Last night however, was a different story. The urge to watch more was very high. The mind came up with many excuses in service of that urge. Justifications like, I may not be able to watch it over the weekend(for a particular reason), so let me sneak in just one more episode. Ya right! We all know how that “one more” goes, don’t we?
As you can imagine, the part of me that was urging me on was high on excitement. It just wanted to go with the flow and not care about anything else. I have been down that road multiple times and I know all too well how it ends. It ends up weakening me somewhere. After the entertainment is over, once I have crossed the threshold where it feels wholesome, I feel somewhat drained, a little sapped of my will power.
I am grateful that my will was up for the challenge this time. It helped me to stay firm amidst the storm. I could feel the effect it had on my energy level immediately! I felt empowered and could use my time constructively. In fact, it rubbed off the next morning too. I woke up fresh and early today, something I have been struggling with lately.
In my experience I find that its easy to be disciplined when we have a flight to catch or a meeting to attend. As kids when we had to adhere to a schedule in school we did not really have much of a choice. However, to be self motivated with discipline is truly empowering.
What are your feelings on the subject? What is your personal experience?