FRANÇOIS BOUDERLIQUE shares some very practical ideas on how we can move forward toward a “new normal” in our post-Covid world. They are not new ideas, instead coming from the timeless wisdom of two great sages from India, Swami Vivekananda and Ram Chandra.
For more than a year now, our lifestyle has been put to the test. The pandemic and its consequences on our family and economic situations have disturbed life as we knew it. I guess it is just the beginning of multiple challenges that will come in the coming years. This phenomenal change has been very challenging for most of us, with a flow of events that are pushing us to assess our deepest convictions, consciously or unconsciously.
How to get stronger to regain a lost balance, build new inner convictions, and try to cement a renewed harmonious lifestyle and face life courageously as it comes to us?
How to keep our balance?
How to know what decisions will keep us on the right track, living a life of purpose and fulfilling action?
How to tap into our deepest ideal while strengthening our character in a practical way?
Quite challenging right now, no?
Let me share with you the formula of Swami Vivekananda, who, at the end of the 19th century, was the epitome of strength and vision with a practical approach to life. It has been my favorite quote, and I believe it summarizes a wonderful approach for life in modern times. It compresses a timeless wisdom on how we can synchronize our hearts and minds for our ultimate benefit:
“You must try to combine in your life immense idealism with immense practicality. You must be prepared to go into deep meditation now, and the next moment you must be ready to go and cultivate these fields. You must be prepared to explain the difficult intricacies of the shastras now, and the next moment to go and sell the produce of the fields in the market. You must be prepared for all menial services, not only here, but elsewhere also.
“The next thing to remember is that the aim of this institution is to make men. … The true man is he who is strong as strength itself and yet possesses a woman’s heart.” 1
Strength is the hallmark of Swami Vivekananda. He goes so far as to say that weakness is a sin!
Now, if we combine this with the idea of an ashram as presented by Ram Chandra, known to many as Babuji, we get a magic combination that will fuel our enthusiasm to lead a life of perfect alignment with our deepest dreams and inner convictions, in the most natural way.
For Babuji, an ashram is not a place for religious zealots living with a set of artificial rules away from society. Instead, it is the field of action of our immediate families, where practical duties meet commitments to higher forces to which we all aspire deep within ourselves.
Here is his definition:
“Grihastha ashram (family life) is not a bar in gaining the real aim in life. I think this is the best ashram in which higher approach is easily possible. … I assure you that a perfect saint may be found in this ashram alone. We perform our duties and remember Him as Ultimate Reality.”2
Our immediate field of action – given at the time of our conception in our environment – starts with our family. It needs to be cultivated and enriched first. Our strength will develop naturally with efforts, dedication, and sacrifice. Daily meditation keeps the flame of our inner ideals when we live a life of practicality, as beautifully explained by Swami Vivekananda.
“Family life is not a bar
in gaining the real aim in life.
I think this is the best ashram in which
higher approach is easily possible. …
I assure you that a perfect saint
may be found in this ashram alone.
We perform our duties and remember Him
as Ultimate Reality.”
Take care of our immediate surroundings harmoniously, get stronger in the process, and naturally develop a healthy lifestyle year after year. What a simple formula for success!
If I am facing each and every challenge within the close circle of my family, work environment, and social interactions, I will equip myself with the necessary strength to enlarge my circle of influence. If I succeed to create harmony in this small circle, the ripple effect of that harmonious circle will affect the world on a larger scale.
At times, we are tempted to run away from it, creating the illusion that the immediate circle can be neglected or avoided, to pursue a new home somewhere else. The problem is that if we have not taken the time to build our muscles of acceptance and compassionate action within our close encounters and families, what are we really going to achieve elsewhere?
In the gym, you start by lifting 30 kilos then 35 kilos etc. Muscles of inner strength and character are also built in a proportional manner, consistently, starting at our doorstep.
So, let us get strong together, step by step, kilo by kilo, practically, while keeping the inner eye alert on our ideal by daily introspection. How can we nurture this grihastha ashram within our own homes and offices, as described by the heritage of those saintly figures who lived a practical life and succeeded in embracing both the inner ideal and the worldly environment?
Such a simple path is given to us to attain strength of character, and this worthy strength is the only thing that will really shape our destiny and make us happy in the long run.
¹ Swami Vivekananda, 1947. Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. 3, “Lectures from Colombo to Almora. Sannyasa: Its Ideal and Practice.” Vedanta Press.
2 Ram Chandra, 1989. Complete Works of Ram Chandra, Vol 1. Shri Ram Chandra Mission, USA
Illustrations by JASMEE MUGDAL
François started his career in a leading market trading bank in the heart of Paris at the age of 20. Two years later, he also started volunteering for an NGO spreading practical means for rejuvenating human values. He has an MBA in intercultural management, foreseeing the need for unifying skills to address the challenge the planet is... Read more