Thought for the Day - Akhandadhi Das - 06/02/2013

Good morning. The personal and political fallout from Chris Huhne’s plea of “guilty” on Monday will be severe for him and almost certainly cause anguish for his family, friends and parliamentary colleagues.

There’s an old Hindu story of the man who walks off the path into the dense jungle on his own. His loved ones call to him, but he keeps on walking. His guru begs him to turn back, but on he goes thinking: “soon, I’ll be in the clearing and all will be well”. Eventually, he is lost and out of reach.

This story illustrates how easy it is for us to exacerbate our problems by making one bad decision after another. Chris Huhne’s troubles appear to be a ten-year series of misjudgements - each compounding the errors of the previous.

The Gita warns of this tendency. Generally, it is assumed that karma is the process by which good or bad deeds receive their reward or come-uppance. But, there’s a more important aspect of karma. It’s a given that, despite our best efforts, all of us will do something wrong sometime or other. As a karmic reaction to our initial mistake, we will then face a second situation requiring us to choose between two paths – do we confess and rectify the original misdeed or do we deny and conceal. But, hiding our guilt will inevitably require us to commit a new offence – often more damaging than the first. And, then karma offers a third chance to choose between admitting or denying our fault; once again the stakes are raised. And, so on.

Of course, we shouldn’t speed – but many of us do it. Last week, I attended a Speed Awareness Course as an alternative to receiving points on my licence. It opened my eyes to the real dangers and potential consequences of what we might consider low-level speeding. If, ten years ago, Mr Huhne had apologised and taken the three points, his life may’ve been inconvenienced with a driving ban and some political turmoil for a while. But, the karmic process would have been over.

Karma isn’t there to punish us, it’s a God-given system to encourage us to acknowledge our mistakes and remedy our actions. There’s a verse in the Gita that’s heavily debated by theologians. It includes the phrase “sadhur eva sa mantavyah”. The purport is that everyone – even a saint – will make mistakes and do things they regret. But, if we own up, take responsibility to make amends and avoid the same mistake in future, then we’re at least a step on the way to becoming saintly.

Because, it’s not doing something wrong that defines us, it’s how we react afterwards that counts.

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