A Step Back To Move Forward

Posted: 08.04.2017

I have often heard that every experience in life, good or bad, teaches you something. I usually look back to figure out what I have learnt and how I have grown or changed since then. Generally the filtering of good and bad experiences is an easy one.  And more often than not, I spend time introspecting hardships rather than good times (although I am sure both have a lot to teach). But, I suddenly find myself in a fix, as I am unable to categorize my recent experiences.

At a time when I was most successful on the yardstick of sales, performance and recognition, I wasn't really having a good time. Below the surface success, there was a deep sense of personal shortfall. The inability to have anticipated and planned efficiently made every day a challenge. Surprisingly the outcome, despite the several inefficiencies was mostly positive and gained the appreciation of many. The internal turmoil made every success seem unwanted and unwarranted. Was it a time of success or failure? I don’t know.

It was a time when I felt strong and weak at the same time. It would have been easy to pass on responsibility and look the other way. Even at that time of vulnerability some latent strength got me through, but not without surfacing my weaknesses. 

I was away from all spiritual practices but I never felt more connected to my faith. I rarely sat down to meditate or internalise Jain teachings, but its presence in my day-to-day life was more evident than ever. It was my only constant when everything seemed to change too soon and too often. 

I had never experienced such conflicting emotions before or probably never noticed them. The only way, in which I can rationalize it, is through the Jain philosophy of Anekantvada.

Anekantvada as an ideology has always intrigued me. The term Anekanta is made up of two words: Aneka and anta. Aneka means many or more than one and Anta means attributes or qualities. So, Anekanta implies that an object has infinite attributes, and is capable of undergoing infinite modifications[1]. Put simply, it means that things and experiences must not be judged from one point of view, as it has many aspects. It is the theory of many-sidedness of reality and truth.

When I learnt about this philosophy, I didn’t find it easy to accept. How can opposites co-exist? Can birth and death or happiness and sadness occur together? Does one not negate the presence of the other? These questions seem to have found their answers now.

The opposites have always existed but went unnoticed. Our view gets so skewed to one attribute, that it makes others go out of sight. Breaking down an experience from different perspectives gives it a deeper, wider understanding. It actually gives it a touch of fullness. Experiences cannot be categorised as solely “good” or “bad” as there is some good in so-called “bad experiences” and vice-versa. There is some success in every failure, some strength in any weakness and underlying faith even at times of doubt.

At times, it is necessary to step back in order to move forward and I am deeply indebted to the philosophy of Anekantvada for helping me put some things to rest so that others could be set in motion. 

Footnotes:
[1]
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