Wisdom//

We Expect People to Behave the Way We Want. That’s the Problem.

During a visit to his Academy near Pune, Thrive India asked Swami A. Parthasarathy, the world’s preeminent exponent of Vedanta, an ancient Indian philosophy, to put modern-day ills in perspective. In his inimitable style, the 92-year-old put the onus of solving stress and anxiety squarely on the self.

His eyes sparkle, his face is always ready to break into an amused smile, and his voice rises to match the passion in his words. Vedanta exponent A. Parthasarathy wears his 92 years with the energy of a toddler, ready to scramble to the next challenge. “No one tires of age,” he says, scoffing at the faux virtue of early retirees.

Thrive Global India spent the morning at the 25-acre campus of his Vedanta Academy — off the Mumbai-Pune highway — which houses students, including business leaders, from across the world. Their purpose here, he says, is to study the manual of life. “You buy any gadget, you need a manual to follow it. Without that, the instrument won’t work properly. This [the mind] is the subtlest of machines we have within us, and there is no manual to operate it. Vedanta gives you that manual of life. So that you have no problems, and need no pills to sleep with,” says Parthasarathy.

Here are edited excerpts from a freewheeling interview, during which he addressed modern-day ills that plague society and prevent humanity from, well, thriving.

Only you can give yourself problems

We complain about various things, but it’s not the external world that gives you problems. Nothing in the world can give you problems but yourself. You mar yourself. You’re the architect of your fortune, your misfortune. But we blame everything other than ourselves.

Life is made up of two aspects. One is you, and the other is the world. Science has developed the world, made it a better place to live in. But we’re living in an improved world more miserable than our ancestors. The world is taken care of by science… the individual is neglected to a fault. There is no programme to develop the individual. How will they enjoy the world?

Manage relationships by managing expectations

I don’t do counseling, but a lot of people come to me — married couples — and I tell them one thing.

You have to assess whatever or whoever you contact — understand what type of a wife, husband, father, boss, do I have… Everything you have to assess, and you ought not to expect anything other than what the person is. We expect them to behave the way we want. That’s a problem.

I’ve been married for 64 years… We have no problems. I should understand my wife as she is, she should understand me as I am. But that’s not happening. Everybody wants his or her view imposed on others.

There should be no confrontation. Even if they [the other person] confront, one hand cannot make a noise. That’s the solution to relationships.

Anyone who is self-centred will be agitated

When you do business, when there’s a fluctuation, you get agitated. I’m not asking you to work for losses, you work for profits, but you have to understand that there will be losses. It all boils down to one formula: Anybody who is self-centred will be agitated. Period. Anybody who is unselfish can never be agitated. This is a law. You prefer to be selfish and want peace? That will not happen.

The world at large is self-centred. They believe they will get peace. You will be unhappy. It’s a law. If you’re trying to serve others, help others, you will be eternally peaceful. You have to grow up to a higher dimension.

Don’t fear technology — learn to relate to it better

Technology will not add to the stress. Your attitude towards it will. Children are a menace to the parents today because parents do not know how to relate to them. Once you learn to, they are a joy. It is a question of relating to the developments. The first steam engine came into the world, there was a great noise made, similar to what you’re making now about cellphones. Phones have come, so what? Technology is needed. You want to go in a bullock cart?

Age doesn’t tire people, anxiety does

What tires anybody is not age. It’s worries of the past and anxiety for the future. The mind keeps oscillating between the past and the future. In the U.S., I asked my colleagues about anti-depressants. So many ads. But I’ve never been depressed in my life, so I’m the wrong person to talk to!

If you’re in New York and reading this, you can learn the principles behind success, stress and destiny and how to take control of your life directly from Swami Parthasarathy. Hear him speak on THE LAW OF KARMA in NYC on September 26. Free admission available. Register at: www.vedantausa.org

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    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

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