What brings us peace?
Deep inside us, we all know it. There have been times in each one’s life when we have felt good and comfortable and satisfied after having kept a clear conscience or having helped a needy or expressing contentment at our acquisitions.
My husband once returned a single day’s extra wage that he had received accidentally and the satisfaction of honesty makes him feel glorious even today. Virtues are rewarding in themselves. The employer was surprised but pleased! He told him that the over-payment would be deducted from the next paycheck. But this did not happen! The virtuous employee went back to the employer who said, “This is not a mistake, my son. The money is your reward.” And that’s how a well-accomplished task got fixed in his mind for all times to come.
It’s a well-known psychological principle of operant conditioning that rewards, punishments, re-enforcements lead to the selection and acquisition of certain forms of behavior. But practice comes first. Consistent and whole-hearted practice! We’ve got to practice the habits of perfection. These include discipline (social as well as personal), physical exercises, breath control, keeping control over the senses, focusing attention, meditating and communion with the Lord. Social discipline holds in itself – hurting nobody, speaking the truth, abstaining from stealing, continence and refraining from avarice. Personal discipline includes cleanliness (internal as well as external), contentment, austerity, regular study of books that guide or scriptures that are authentic and lastly a loving and dutiful surrender to God.
Each one of these is so important that if we resolve to master even one of these, results will start ensuing. Fortunately for us, all of these are intricately related and in most cases, if we are sincere and mean well, one would lead to the other.
At times, we don’t feel much inclined towards practicing any of these essential steps towards the ultimate. Slackness in the path is taken by us as a reward. One says, “Hey, ten minutes of harmless fun doesn’t hurt. I’ll start being good again after that.”
We forget here that whatever we do and in fact, even see, leaves an impression on our souls or what we refer to in common parlance as the subconscious mind. If somebody does a bad thing once, he will be inclined to do the same again as soon as the situation or opportunity recurs. And the erring humans that we are, we re-succumb to the temptation, thus spoiling not this life but many more to come.
Indeed, it’s all very easy to think of, say truth, as the highest virtue. But when it comes to actually carrying it out, we fail miserably because we fail to see that such a thing as truth is needed at every moment of life. Even while sitting idle and thinking, one needs to be truthful. Or for instance, if we consider complete and loving surrender to God, it is monstrously hard to abide by it. After all, you are the manager, how can you surrender your life to somebody else like God. What does He know about your work?
This lack of faith and dedication takes us down, down, down. We think we can do anything and get away with it because who’s there to question us? Fooling other people is actually indicative of fooling ourselves because the time we tried to indulge in that sort of “fun”, we were far from truth and God was watching us, nodding sadly and making a note of what we deserve as a result of this deed of ours.
The tungsten filament of the electric bulb lights continuously and brightens up the environs. The moment it tires and fuses, illumination ceases. Our case is no different. The moment we lose control over our actions or allow the less befitting of our tendencies to creep up and overpower the worthy ones, we fall in the clutches of darkness, far away from illumination.
It, therefore, becomes very important to keep guard over ourselves and not to digress from our equanimity and purity under any circumstance. We need to be very particular about what we do. So immaculately particular that there would be complete conformity to the true knowledge and so that our lives would be ideal examples for others who are, today, looking desperately for ways to subdue their tensions and anxieties. Our life would then be filled with the real peace and each moment would be a moment to savor.
 As has been well stated, understood and practiced by highly accomplished great men who succeeded in reaching the ultimate in life.