Avoid Mental Stress

— Ashokgarde

Given the availability of the basic requirements of living comfortably –food, clothing and shelter – a person wishes also to possess good health and peace of mind. Hindus were acutely aware that good bodily health cannot be maintained without a healthy mind. Emotions are natural, and so is the faculty of using the intellect to choose between emotional responses. Knowing well that one can control own actions but not of the others, a practical work/action philosophy has been developed by the sages of Hinduism around 5000 years ago. This philosophy-saankhya# - is rational and secular to such an extent that it does not depend in any way on the concept of ‘god’.

Every human being works i.e. takes actions needed for protection, survival and growth. Work is undertaken to get the desired result. Not getting the desired result is frustrating, leading to mental stress. Even the idea of possible failure creates mental stress. Prolonged mental stress gives rise to body diseases like inflamed bowel syndrome, peptic ulcers, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiac dysfunctions among other illnesses. [Modern medical science has established that over 60 % of the diseases are psychosomatic: i. e. caused due to disturbed state of mind.] Being aware of this chain of ‘action-result-mental stress-disease-more stress’, the ancient seers devoted considerable attention to HOW work takes place and HOW to deal with the results of work. Philosophically, they also wanted to ‘free’ the karma from its ‘fruit’ in order to reach moksha –release from the cycle of birth and death for the atma AND serene peace of mind for living happily. Such philosophy (Ref. 2, 3) of course, had to be such that it can be practiced by all.

• Five, and only five, elements are needed for any karma or work to take place. Work takes place when all these five elements of work are present: adhisthaan basis, karta –Doer, karanam –means, cheshta –efforts and daivam chance. We normally think of only the middle three elements.
• Basis means a logical ground for the work to take place: one cannot convert glass into gold, there being no basis for such a conversion to occur.
• Chance is always present, since the result of the actions by the Doer using different means is not under the control of the Doer ---many forces outside the control of the Doer have their effect on the result.
• Getting the desired result is called success, while not getting the desired result is called failure. The result of action lies on the continuum of probability of getting the desired result going from nil –total failure to 100 - total success. Most often, the success is partial, a mixture of success and failure.
• The Doer does not ACHIEVE success: success occurs. The Doer does not achieve FAILURE: failure occurs. Understandably, because the Doer is only one of the five elements and chance is outside her/his control.
• Obviously, therefore, the Doer should neither become arrogant on success, nor get mentally depressed by failure.
• The Doer may restart the failed (or partially successful) work after ensuring that the basis was right, and choose better means and make greater efforts to increase the probability of success. On repeated failures, the conclusion is either the task is outside the competence of the Doer, or luck is unfavourable (the time, circumstances etc. are not right).
• The Doer may then take up other more manageable work, and work at it enthusiastically to maximize the probability of success.
• After success at the planned work, comes the fruit of the work; which again is outside the control of the Doer.

Just place yourself in the place of the Doer. When doing difficult work, YOU are not sure of success, and the mere thought that YOU may fail starts building mental stress. Unfortunately, modern science has yet not found a valid way to ‘measure’ the amount of mental tension: and that which is not measurable cannot truly be controlled. Even when you feel that YOU are not under much mental tension, it may be causing damage inside your body, and which may manifest as a psycho-somatic disease after several years. So, just eliminate the mental tension by realizing that YOU do not fail: failure occurs. YOU do not succeed either: success occurs.

When you study a subject and learn new skills, you are increasing the probability of success in the new task that you wish to handle.

Consider a person learning to cook rice. His first attempts are likely to fail i.e. the rice may be undercooked or overcooked. Obviously, if he has called a friend for meals, he would be ‘under mental tension’ when cooking rice at this stage. When proficient, well-cooked rice comes out 100% of the times; well, almost. Hardly any tension is felt while cooking and the ‘failures’ are only slightly away from the well-cooked and are still edible.

Now let us look at the difference between success/failure and ‘fruit’.

As a student, I study to get good marks in the examination. Luckily, the paper is not too difficult (since I have studied well.) I get as good marks as I expected. This is success. Now I want admission in a good university of my choice as a result of my effort. This is the fruit. I cannot ‘guarantee’ that I will get this fruit. Too many factors outside my control govern the decision by the university.

So, this philosophy advises the doer not to think of the fruit when doing the work.

The student needs to concentrate on studies when planning to appear for the exams: she will falter at it if she thinks of ‘university admission’ when solving a problem in mathematics. A cricketer wishing to hit a sixer needs to concentrate on each ball. He is likely to lose the wicket if he were to think of the beautiful prize car (that he is promised if he scores 6 sixers) while hitting the ball.

This philosophy of work needs to be imbibed by being aware of it all the time: remember that YOU are only 1 of 5 elements needed for work. Work enthusiastically for success by ensuring that basis exists, choose right means and put in good efforts to maximize the probability of success. When success occurs, be happy. If failure occurs, try again enthusiastically by improving the means and the efforts. Hope for the fruit after success happens. Accept the result with equanimity: fruit comes your way –fine. It does not –OK. You could not have controlled it any way!

The two major advantages of internalizing this philosophy are: YOU develop true humility and YOU become free from mental tension.

Have we not observed that most people who have accomplished great things are humble and do not get into depression on repeated failures when they attempt very difficult tasks? They are basically following this philosophy of work, knowingly or intuitively, as learnt from their experience.

#References from Bhagavad-Gita: Chapter 18, verses 12 to 16; Chapter 2, verse 47

About the Author
Mr.Ashok Raghunath Garde, a textile graduate, worked in research, development, training and consultation for 33 years in Ahmedabad Textile Industry's Research Association. Mr.Garde has co-authored eight books on textiles, published over 270 papers.

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