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19 June, 2011

Assume Responsibility

There was this wise old man who had answers to all life-related questions. He was an enlightened person. A boy, in his adolescent years, wanted to test the wise old man. So, he caught hold of a little bird. Holding it in the palm of his hands and his hands hidden inside his coat, he asked the wise old man, “I have a bird with me. Is it alive or dead?” The old man smiled and said, “If I tell you the bird is alive, you will crush the bird and show me a dead one. If I tell you the bird is dead, you will release the bird and show me it’s alive.”

Embarrassed, the boy dropped his head and began to walk away. He would have hardly walked a few steps. He heard the voice of the old man, “Mind you my son, in fact, this is the philosophy of life – your life and your death are in your hands.”

In spite of the canvas, despite the paints and the brushes involved, the quality is the responsibility of a painter. Similarly, the quality of a sculpture is the responsibility of a sculptor. If so, then the quality of your life is your responsibility and yours alone. Your life and your death are in your own hands. No blame is allowed. By blaming, you give up the power to change. By taking responsibility you gain the power to change and thus you take charge of your life. The first step to adulthood is to assume complete responsibility for your life. Epictetus profoundly put it: “God has entrusted me with myself.”

This happened in one of the fastest growing companies, which prided on innovative ways to motivate their employees. One day, when the employees turned up for work, they saw a poster on the entry gate with the words, “Yesterday the person who has been hindering your growth in this company passed away. We invite you to join the funeral in the room that has been prepared in the gym.” Though in the beginning there was a spell of gloom as they read the notification, gently their curiosity got the better of them. “Who was that man who hindered the growth of his colleagues and the company itself?”

One by one when they got closer to the coffin, and when they looked inside, they became speechless. They stood near the coffin, shocked in silence, as if someone had touched the deepest part of their soul. There was a mirror inside the coffin; everyone who looked inside it could see himself. On the mirror was another poster that read, “There is only one person who is capable of stopping you permanently, and it is YOU. And, there is only one person who is capable of revolutionizing your life, and that’s again YOU. Your life does not change when your boss changes, when your friends change, when your partner changes, when your company changes. Your life changes when YOU change. No one can take responsibility for your life, like YOU can.”

Man not only has the power to take responsibility for his own life, but has within him the capacity to take responsibility for the life of others too. Wherever opportunities present themselves, be the first one to put your hand up. Followers accept responsibilities. Leaders assume responsibilities. You take the initiative. You volunteer. You step forward. Announce your presence. Be counted, and make yourself count.

When you assume responsibility, always take it unconditionally. What is not unconditional will never be done. There is no point in keeping the ‘exit’ door open all the time. Burn the bridges. Conditions are required only to pass on the blame, in case, there is a failure. Don’t even consider failure as an option. Where conditions succeed, responsibilities fail. Where responsibilities succeed, conditions are redundant. Just take it and do it.

The Lord may have borne the cross of your sins, but even He will not bear the cross of your growth. The cross of your growth is your responsibility, and yours alone. You alone must carry it. Only when you feel responsible for your life, you can respond with ability. Else it will be responding with disability. Put your hands up and be counted. There is no better way for a man to create himself than to assume responsibilities.

Of all the creations, man alone, by the way he lives his life, can make this world a little better than it was when he was born. Every man has the capacity to be an architect of a new world. Even if a concept of rebirth exists, you will not be born again as you – not in this form and this name. This is the only chance you have got to be you. Don’t miss yourself and let the world not miss you. Make the most of this birth, this lifetime. Bring forth every human faculty and live a complete human life.

Responsibility is in ensuring you never let a moment pass by you, without you making your presence felt. Add value to every moment. Add value to every relationship. Transform every transaction by adding value to it. Let nothing pass by you without you adding value to it. Be an alchemist. Let everything transform in your presence. In turn, you will be transformed. In helping others to find themselves, you will find yourself. Be a reformer. Be the change agent.

Every revolution in the world happened when one man assumed responsibility of gigantic proportions. In Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ambedkar and Mother Teresa a social revolution was triggered, when they could no more be a passive witness to the predicament of the then society. They waited for no one to lead them. They needed no body to ask them to take the responsibility. They took the lead. They took the initiative. They assumed the responsibility. They put their hand up. They decided to make their life count. They decided to reform the prevailing social conscience and thus caused a re-formed society.

“Something must be done,” that’s the attitude of a spectator in life. Talks about everything; does nothing. A classic follower! If somebody does something, I am willing to enjoy the benefit of it. I, from my side, will not seat, won’t toil, and forget about the blood or tears.

“I will do something about it,” is what leaders are made off. They volunteer to bear the cross. Their life is never a ‘Came and Went’ statistical life. Their life is a legacy of ‘Came and made it Count’.

In Veda Vyas, Adi Sankara, Budha, Mahavira, Jesus, Mohammad, Guru Nanak…. Came the embodied souls, who took it upon themselves to provide a spiritual path to the then ‘lost our ways’ humanity. The Latin word religare, from which ‘religion’ is derived, simply means, ‘to bind back’. Thus, the purpose of religion in the truest sense of the word is to bind us back to the original source from which we came. Each one of these messiahs assumed the responsibility to lead us back to the source from which we came, and through them new paths were born, new religious paths unfolded.

Whether it is your own individual transformation, or the re-formation of humanity at large – it all begins with one embodied human soul stepping forward to assume that responsibility

A promotion in your career isn’t a new status but it is a new responsibility. Man and woman becoming husband and wife isn’t a new status but a new responsibility. Husband and wife becoming father and mother isn’t a new status but a new responsibility. Being born a a human being, in itself, isn’t a status but a responsibility, for you can impact this world in ways you alone can.

If I ask you to carry a 12 Kg single granite stone and walk a kilometer, you will struggle with it. Now, I ask you to carry your child who is 14 Kg for the same one kilometer and you will happily do it. Anything in life that is perceived as Kashtam Kashtam (difficult, difficult) will only appear to be even more difficult. Do the same thing, perceiving it as Ishtam Ishtam , the most complex of tasks can be done with effortless ease. Stop viewing responsibilities as a burden and start seeing them as opportunities. Stop saying Kashtam Kashtam (difficult, difficult) to responsibilities and step forward to take responsibilities by saying Ishtam Ishtam.

Source: FT May 2011 issue.

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