Preeti, Sheikh Raunqi Ram’s niece came home from school, sobbing.
“What happened sweetie? Why is my little one crying?” asked Sheikh.
“The teacher slapped me today”, the affectionate consolation brought her suppressed cries out and the trickle of tears soon took the form of innocent little streams.
“You must have done something. The teacher cannot punish you unless you do something wrong”, he wiped her tears off.
“No”, came the curt reply.
“You must have picked up a fight with someone.”
“I don’t fight with my friends.”
“Then you must have been talking to somebody, when the teacher was teaching.”
“How could I”, said Innocence personified. “How could I talk while I was sleeping!”
“What, were you sleeping in the class?” asked an appalled Sheikh.
“Yes”, she said, glad that the point had been driven home. “Uncle, do you believe me now?” she said emphatically. “I did nothing”.
Sheikh Raunqi Ram could speak no further. He was shocked. We send a child to school to educate him. During the course of studies, the child does mischief, picks up fights with his fellows. But all that can be taken just in a stride, so far as the child learns at school.
“But look at Preeti”, mused a shocked Sheikh Raunqi Ram. “She does not make any mischief, she does nothing wrong. But is that enough? What is the motive of sending her to school? Sleeping and thinking that there is nothing wrong in doing nothing?”
“Doing nothing! What a folly. Trying and then failing, is perfectly normal. Trying and failing again and again is acceptable. But doing nothing! Horrible”, Sheikh was perturbed.
A person who does nothing is an animal. Nothing more!
Sheikh Raunqi Ram too had once belonged to a group of people, who believed that they ought not do anything because as per the Vedantic doctrine, we are all actionless, and thus can never be doers.
However he soon learned, the hard way that this thought was not meant to make us desist from performing action. Once he happened to visit a rich friend of his. It was the peak of winters. The Sheikh was given a cozy warm room for the night. At bedtime, the host’s servant came to his room to see if the guest was comfortable. Sheikh had wanted to put the night lamp on, but the warmth of the bed refused to let him go out of its enticing warm grip. So, when the servant came to his room, he was more than glad and requested him to put the lamp on. In his hurry, the servant switched on the fan, instead of the night lamp, and went away.
A cold winter night, and the fan swirling in full swing. The sheikh kept quivering . He tried tucking in the corners of his blanket to ward off the cold but to no avail. The easiest way for him to solve the problem was simply to get up and switch off the fan. But the freshly acquired vedantic information (not knowledge) stopped him from doing so. “I am not the doer. I am actionless. I cannot undo what has been done because it is not me who has done it”.
However, his lungs probably were not as knowledgeable. So in the morning, he woke up, if he slept at all, with severe pneumonia. The servant came to see him in the morning. He, ‘the doer’, who had switched the fan on, was hale and hearty. The cold had not affected him. The ultimate sufferer was the actionless Sheikh.
Many people try to unload their responsibility on others, in order to absolve their own selves. Sheikh Raunqi Ram knew one such girl. That well meaning girl wanted to lead an ascetic life of a renunciate. However, her parents were not in agreement to her plans. So they arranged her marriage with a suitable boy, without her knowledge. Once the marriage was fixed, Sheikh Raunqi Ram, who had been privy to her own plans, asked her the obvious question, “What will you do now”?
“I have not fixed my marriage. It is my parents who have done it. I have no role here. I will do nothing.”
The Sheikh did not quite agree with her. “Does she really have no role to play? Isn’t she the one who is affected? Irrespective of whether she was consulted or not, is she not the one who will have to bear the consequences, good or bad? Is ‘doing nothing’ the answer”? Many thoughts flooded the Sheikh’s mind but he did not retort, wiser as he was with his experience.
The gist of Sheikh’s musing is that doing nothing will help only in accentuating our grossness (Jarta). The tendency to do nothing may some times even trap us in a massive vicious net.
So what do we do?
We have to strengthen, further and still further, our ability and prudence to bear our burden on our own shoulders. We have to kindle the flame of doing something, getting somewhere.
“I have done nothing”. This is but a deceptive consolation full of folly.
What to do?
Ask yourself, “What should I do”! “What have I done?”