Stoicism

— Sumit Paul


A village girl became an unwed mother and, after several beatings, revealed who the father was: the Zen Master living on the outskirts of the village. The villagers trooped into the Master's house, rudely disturbed his meditation, denounced him as a hypocrite and told him to keep the baby. All the master said was, " Very well. Very well."

He picked the baby up and made arrangements with the woman next door to look after it at his expense. His name, of course, was ruined, and his disciples all abandoned him. When this had gone on for a year, the girl could bear it no longer and confessed that she had lied. The father was the boy next door. The villagers bowed profoundly to the Master to beg his pardon and ask to take the baby back. And all the Master said as he handed back the child was, " Very well. Very well."

The Awakened Man! A stage comes in life, though very rarely, when nothing affects an individual. It's not even enlightenment. It's beyond that. It's an awakened state of mind where there's no place for any kind of reaction. This is stoicism at its sublime best. When Mansur Hallaj, the 'sacrilegious' Arab mystic, was being excoriated for proclaiming An-al-Haq (I'm the god) in 922 AD, one of the men, who was peeling his skin off, began to tremble by the unthinkably gory sight of Mansur's raw flesh. " Must be condemning me for being so cruel to you, " asked the man. The dying Mansur faintly smiled and replied, " Rather, thankful to you for this torture. More the pain, greater is the realization of the self......." With these words, Mansur shuffled off the mortal coil to meet his greater self. To react is the sign of still being an ordinary mortal. Equanimity and equipoise in all circumstances can lead a person in his/her spiritual quest. We react and retaliate, not because we have to prove that we are right, we resent because we are too preoccupied with ourselves, with our so-called goody-goody image in the society and with our bloated opinion of ourselves. We are too attached to this mundane world and to a quotidian existence that we can't forfeit it and try to defend our stand.

We have not been able to rise above our corporeal reality and narcissistic self and that's the reason, we are so disturbed when someone says something bad about us and elated when something good we get to hear of ourselves. Allama Iqbal says, " Kafir ki ye pahchan ke aafaaq mein gum hai / Momin ki ye pahchan ke gum usmein hai aafaaq" (Kafir, not the hidebound and traditional connotation of the Hindu-Muslim stereotypes, is one who is lost in the affairs of the world, whereas a Momin, though connotationally "a true Muslim", but liberally, an awakened soul, is one in whom is lost the entire universe). The moment one gets over the self-love and self-aggrandisement, one stops bothering about whether aspersions are being cast upon him or praise is being bestowed. He becomes spiritually too insouciant to worry about all these petty issues of wretched human existence. Socrates quaffing Hemlock and yet, being aware of life leaving him gradually is a stoical spectacle embossed on the palimpsest of mankind's collective consciousness.

The day before Martin Luther King Jr's assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968, someone asked him, whether he was feeling jittery as there were threats to his life. King calmly said, " Never in my life have I bothered about success and failure as well as life and death. Let death be lurking round the corner, why should I be frightened of something I have no control over? " King fell to the bullets of an assassin, Earl James Ray, the very next day!! Self-awakening dispels all fears and it also smothers all doubts and misgivings. We react as long as we are ignorant about our entity, we stop reacting the moment we realize that any reaction is futile and self-degrading. An awakened soul goes beyond all trappings and is sublimated into the universal consciousness. The sthitpragya state of eastern philosophy, advocated by Krishna in Gita is that desired state of mind when all things appear as they are and mind neither rejoices nor does it regret when things go awry or in favour. One rises above human attributes to realize the insignificance of all that is in this world. When Jagat Mithya. Brahmam Satya becomes the sole dictum to follow, ‘reactionary and responsive pettiness’ (Adler's term) fades into oblivion. We become universally conscious and cease to be fretful and fearful. After all, a sthitpragya is ‘an embodiment of bliss.’ He's beyond all yardsticks and parameters of worldly wisdom.

About the Author
Sumit Paul is a Poona-based advanced research student of Semitic languages and civilizations. He contributes to world's premier publications and portals in several languages, viz, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Urdu, French, Spanish, Dutch, Hindi, English among others.

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