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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Breaking Rules, Preserving Principles

In our daily tussle of right and wrong, we often tend to judge people in the way our society has defined the rules for us. And why not? That is exactly what our respected courts of law does. They go by what is written as per the law (the rules), and then try to arrive at the facts and arrive at an informed judgment of right or wrong. But wish, life was so black and white, so simple and so unambiguous. There is one perspective that can help you always take the righteous path - which may or may not abide by all the rules...Read on...

It was a tough day. The bid was finally submitted to the client though it needed many hours of additional work. "The fine tuning of the bid is just too much of an effort for too little consequence." I was thinking about all the meaningless stuff that we do at our workplace as I took the last metro back to my home. I was fortunate enough to have caught this metro today, otherwise calling a cab at this time of the night is another headache. And then the tussle with the accounts fellow to justify the late night charges, and explaining what I could have done to ensure that I did not miss my metro....swoosh !!

"Anyways, good that today was a Friday, and I can at least spend sometime with my kids for the next 2 days."

After reaching my destination metro station, I walked through the by-lane. I was still about half a km from my home. And I had no choice but to walk down. Expecting an auto rickshaw at this time would be stupidity. But in the middle of this dark lonely night, something felt truly out of place. Or I was unnecessarily worried. May be. I continued to walk towards my home.

I might have walked only about 100m or so, when there was a loud noise from somewhere behind me. Looked like a small bomb blast, or may be it was a gun shot. I don't know, but I was already getting panicky. I looked around, but did not see anyone. Sensing something fishy, I hurried up towards my home. I was about to hop the last crossing when I was taken aback by what I saw in front of me. A middle aged man, limping in one leg with blood oozing out of it, was breathing heavily and looking for something desperately - probably a place to hide. He was shot in his leg. He saw me and ignored me. 

I was so shocked to see all this happening in front of my eyes that I failed to give any reaction to this situation. This man limped his way to the street on my right, and hid himself behind one of the walls.

Before I could sense the gravity of the situation, a hand tapped on my shoulder gently, from behind. It seemed as if this was my last day of life. Gathering some courage, I tried to look behind me. There were 2 men - their faces covered with black cloth and their eyes staring straight at mine. 

"Did you see a man around here just now?" asked one of them.

I was scared. I did not want to take any chance with my own life. "Yes", I said.

"Where has he gone?" shouted the other, pointing a device towards my forehead - which, I later realized, was a locally made gun. 

Within a second, I could process and churn enough data in my mind to point them towards the street on my left, while I knew that the victim was hiding towards the street on my right side. Following my hint, these men rushed towards the left. And I did not waste any time to either look at the injured man or think anything else. I immediately rushed towards my home.

As soon as I reached home, I narrated the entire incident to my wife. I did not realise when my kids also woke up and were listening to the horror story that unfolded barely a few meters away from our home. Our cities have become so unsafe. We immediately called up the ambulance and police, and just hoped that everything will end up fine.

The younger one then asked a questioned that baffled me.

"Why did you NOT speak the truth Dad? Why did you direct those people in the wrong direction? Is speaking truth not the right thing to do in spite of the consequences? I think that is what you have always taught us."

I knew it was time for imparting another important life skill. 

"Yes. Speaking truth is really important. Thats one of the golden rules. But remember that all rules are created to protect certain principles in life."

"Principles? What are those?"

"It is simple. You can see this clash between rules and principles in many areas of your day to day life."

"Can you please give me some examples Dad?"

"Of course. For example, not jumping a traffic signal is a rule which all must follow. But remember that the rule has been created to protect a fundamental principle and that is to protect human life. Traffic signals are constructed to protect lives, isn't it? Now, if you are carrying an injured person in your car who needs immediate medical attention, then jumping a traffic signal and breaking this rule is perfectly OK, simply because you are breaking the rule to protect the principle of saving someone's life."

"Interesting....in that case, is it even OK to kill someone for the larger good?"

"Why not? There are many real life examples where you may have to kill someone for the larger good of humanity. While killing is not a good act, but if it is done with the right intent ie to protect a larger principle, then the act becomes justified. Lord Krishna did break many rules during the war of Mahabharata, but he did all that in the larger interest of the people. And that is why breaking those rules is just fine."

"Wow, I am getting it Dad, but you also taught us about karmas. In such a case when we break rules, or kill someone, is that still counted as a good karma? Doesn't our action define our karma?"

"Our Karma is definitely defined by our actions, but it also has one more ingredient - and that is the intent of our action. Remember this: Karma = Action (Rules) + Intent (Principles). And Principle is always more important that the rule."

"OK, and that is why you took a wrong action of misleading the followers with a gun, but since your intent was right i.e. to save someone's life, your karma will still be counted as a good karma."

"Bang on...you got it." I continued. "And remember that it takes some thinking, self analysis and an inquisitive mind like yours to question the rules and understand why those were created. It is only if we ask such questions to ourselves, will we understand the underlying principles. Once we understand the underlying principles, day to day decision making in life becomes so much easier."

"OK, And Dad, what if we just keep following the rules without understanding the principles behind them?"

"Then, you would be someone like Duryodhana, who understands and discusses the rules when a lady is being disrobed in front of everyone, but forgets the fundamental principles and is therefore in no position to defend her. Knowing or unknowingly, you might be doing a bad karma in spite of the fact that your actions may be good."

"Got it Dad. So here is my take from the discussion - Rules are good to follow. But principles outweigh the rules whenever there is a clash. Our Karma is defined by our action along with the intent of that action, and intent is always more important than the action itself. This also tells me that we should not be judging someone as right or wrong just be seeing them breaking the rules. They might be just doing it to defend some principles."

"Yes, that's the key to everyone's happiness. Unfortunately, since our modern society is so much governed by rules, we have become extremely judgmental and therefore an extremely unhappy society too."

We heard the police and ambulance arriving. 

"OK OK, Go to sleep now. I just pray to God that things will be good for everyone. I might have to go out to guide the police and ambulance. You all go to bed."

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The book Happiness Unlimited shows you many such lessons to lead a happier, contented life.


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