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On Meaning and Swadharma

I finished Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life and I enjoyed reading a good book after a long time. Jordan B. Peterson (JBP) has given 12 rules that you should follow in life that are can help you to avoid chaos in life. The opposite of chaos meaning order. Being a clinical psychologist himself, he has given examples of his practice and also shed light on the rules through examples from Bible and some Egyptian mythology.

I am a particular fan of ancient wisdom because ancient wisdom is many times very simple and clear. They don’t bother with many rules and as JBP said in the introduction, ancient wisdom was based on action (and experience) and not particularly things and world.

Out of the many rules that he wrote in the book, I liked the 7th Rule – Pursue what is meaning (not what is expedient). Def of expedient – ‘a means of attaining an end, especially one that is convenient but possibly improper or immoral’. JBP says that it is important to sacrifice, have delayed gratification in what you do and pursue what is meaningful, rather than going for something that is beneficial in the short term and seems convenient to you.

Comparing the terms to Bhagavagad Gita, meaningful is similar to Swadharma of Hindu philosophy, and sacrifice is Yagna while expedience would be ‘Sankalpa’ or ‘Aarambhaa’. JBP says

“To have meaning in your life is better than to have what you want, because you may neither know what you want, nor what you truly need. Meaning is something that comes upon you, of its own accord. You cannot simply produce it as an act of will. Meaning signifies that you are in the right place at the right time properly balanced between order and chaos, where everything lines up as best it can at that moment”

12 Rules for life – Jordan B. Peterson.

Nothing could describe more accurately about the situation of Arjuna, the great warrior of Mahabharata who wanted to leave the battlefield, when two armies signifying good and evil, order and chaos, were facing each other at Kurukshetra. It is then that he wished to leave the field as he thought that he is bringing chaos to the world through his actions of killing others. Then Lord Krishna, urges Arjuna, to discard his ambitions of becoming a monk. Arjuna was trained as a warrior all his life and most important battle of humanity, he wanted to drop his weapon and go away to the forest. Krishna offers him the way of Naishkarma Siddhi – work according to your purpose or meaning, act on what is meaningful, offer the fruits of those actions to Him (Brahman). Through this he will be able to attain success in his work and also attain Nirvana or Oneness with Brahman.

To do what is meaningful, JBP says that we have to sacrifice now, to gain later. Sacrifice or Yagna is the basis of action in Hindu philosophy too. According to Hinduism, everything in the world is based on sacrifice, even the cycle of rains and crops is a sacrifice. Nature sacrifices. Each person sacrifices something. A person who lives only for himself and does not offer anything to the world, its better that he is dead. After reading 12 Rules for life, I think what it means that a person who does not offer anything in sacrifice is almost like a dead person as he has not improved his character and Being.

From the book, Tao te Ching has this:
He who contrives defeats his purpose;
and he who is grasping, loses.
The sage does not contrive to win,
and therefore is not defeated;
he is not grasping, so does not lose.

12 Rules for Life, Jordan B Peterson

In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna repeatedly tells Arjuna not to start any work based on Sankalpa. Sankalpa would mean planning or intent. This has always confused me because I have always started something first by planning about it. But like Tao te Ching says, planning and contriving defeats the purpose. You lose meaning of yourself and the task. You want to complete the job at all cost. You fail to live in the moment. Not that planning is not important in the completion of a project. But many times we often stick to the plan and the results and not the meaning of the project. The way out is to sacrifice the result at the moment. Whatever aim you have, you carry out the task and forget the result. The focus should be on the task only and not the result. This helps to clean your soul itself in the long run and like JBP says allow you to have meaning and aim higher and higher.

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