What Is It, to Be Practical?
Excerpt from Lesson Five
“Practicality” has been waved like a banner to declare that spirituality and high ideals belong in the temple, mosque, and church, but not in the “real” world of business. Hard-headed business practices are perceived too often as having nothing to do with ideals: they are purely a matter of making money. Into this thinking there creeps very easily the consciousness that dishonesty in business is perfectly justifiable—the sort of consciousness that justifies itself by saying, “One can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” This thinking creates a serious problem for businessmen who want to live by higher principles. It was voiced to me recently by a doctor friend in India. “I believe in high principles,” he said to me earnestly. “Practically speaking, however, how can I follow them? Life makes demands of me that I simply cannot meet unless, occasionally, I cut a few corners ethically. I have a son to put through college. I want to live by dharmic principles, but if I did so always I couldn’t survive.”
It was that question which inspired me to write this course of lessons. For what I have seen from personal experience to be true is the exact opposite: To live determinedly by high principles is the surest road to material security—and beyond that, to glowing material success. My hope in these lessons has been to convince people that by giving high ideals the highest priority in their lives, they will succeed far better at anything they try in life than if they think—in the name of a practicality that can see only the solid ground at their feet—that, by cheating someone today, one has made his profit and needn’t worry about tomorrow.
My observation has been that many people—in India nowadays especially—share that doctor’s concern. The solution to his question depends first of all on another simple question: What is it doing for you? I couldn’t easily ask my friend to look in a mirror and ask himself that question, though in fact his face showed some of the ravages of his inner conflict. The truth is, when people “cut corners” ethically, they cannot help creating an inner war—as at Kurukshetra—which pits the two selves within them, the higher and the lower, in heated combat together.
“What is it doing for you?” See whether it is giving
you more inner peace, or—instead—
more inner anguish. The very fact that my friend asked that question showed that he was suffering this anguish. A more hard-headed materialist might say, “What nonsense! I feel no such anguish!” That is because he has surrendered to the pull of his lower self. Let him ask himself then, instead, “Am I happy?” I don’t believe his answer will be in the affirmative!
Many people make the gross mistake of equating practicality with greed. They may prevaricate to obtain an unfair advantage over someone; or to cheat a customer by selling him a product they know to be defective; or to damage a competitor’s reputation by belittling his products and services.
Ananda Sangha India ©2004-2011