Life's twisted tale has a bright side

(The following article was posted in the "Meditations" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest English language daily newspapers, on 14 August 2003.) A TALE told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing? This Shakespearean phrase negates life's purpose, as does creating a cocoon based on gratification of the senses. That fuzzy feeling that engulfs us during peak times - graduations, marriages, births - and happy moments at home, or in clubs and theatres, sometimes results in a dreary aftermath. This is when we ask what IS really significant and worthwhile in life. A brighter view was expressed by George Lucas in reference to his creation Star Wars: 'I was trying to say in a simple way that there is a God and there is both a good side and a bad side. You have a choice between them, but the world works better if you're on the good side.' Certainly there are at least two sides to every story. Clouds have silver linings, faults and glories exist in everyone, and so on. The Vedas describe our predicament in detail. AIthough spiritual by nature and very joyful, we are gripped by the gunas or the three ropes of ignorance, passion and goodness. These intertwined strands bind us to the material world, which is the cause of bondage and pessimism. Spending time before Deities, in prayer, reading Vedic literature, going to temples and singing mantras can become artificia! as we're creatures of habit. Nonetheless these habits make life pleasant, and they have great potency. We might wish, however, that we could feel more or be moved more by such practices. Pushkin sometimes wrote about the un-understandable, unpredictable things in life - feelings that occur within surprise events, like unexpected visitors and semiconscious dreams. Such feelings, no matter how good, should not determine and control us. Why not? Because unpredictables often come from the dark side of life, whilst the planned, smooth-running things can be the happy events, the gardens of our lives. Ultimately it's inner vision that should determine our thoughts and behaviour. There are many facets to belief, but love for God and knowing the nature of God are essential if spiritual love is to open our eyes rather than blind us. Spirituality based on knowledge rather than the psychological need to belong is rare. It comes from a deep ineffable source of joy within ourselves. It comes from knowing without any doubt that the world is not run by an idiot. The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission.