Ideals and Values/Commitment or Dedication (Nishthā) & Fortitude or Perseverance (Dhriti)
What are Fortitude and Commitment?
Fortitude or Perseverance means that we should not lose hope and confidence in a difficult time. We should not feel dejected. Rather, we should be persistent in reaching our goal and continue to work hard with courage and confidence. A person who does not have fortitude can never be successful in his life. He will never take any risks and at the slightest adversity, he will give up.
It is the presence or absence of fortitude that distinguishes a great person from an ordinary one. Therefore Sage Bhartrihari has said:
Those who are low grade do not start any work, scared of the obstacles that they will face in accomplishing their task. The medium grade people start their tasks, but then stop before completing them when they encounter difficulties on the way. But the highest category of people never give up once they have start a task and do not stop before completing it despite numerous obstacles on their way.
A person who has fortitude is very strong willed and always keeps a positive attitude. He does not lose hope and does not give up easily. Queen Vidula of the kingdom of Sauvira said the following words to her son, who had lost his kingdom, to encourage him to fight back and regain his territory:
"I will definitely be victorious, with this resolve in your mind, you must get up, give despondency and become always engaged in actions that get bring glory and power to you.
Commitment and Dedication means that we should really believe in the importance of the task that we are doing. When we have this belief, we work whole-heartedly and with full enthusiasm to complete our task, no matter how much time and effort it takes. Never Give Up, Continue to Exert: Life is like a garden. To keep the garden beautiful and fresh at all times, we must constantly plant and trim our flowering plants. But at the same time, we can never ignore the weeds that can grow and choke our flowers. Therefore, we must tend our flowers and also pluck the weeds regularly. The human mind is very fertile, like a fertilized garden. To keep it pure and beautiful, we should constantly engage ourselves in good activities and also keep making a constant effort to steer clear of bad things. We can never lower our guard, because it takes just a moment for negative thoughts to enter our minds.
Thomas Edison, the famous inventor had once said, "Success is 100% perspiration, and only 1% inspiration." Indeed, the most successful people in the world are not necessarily those who are very intelligent, but the ones who keep trying to improve themselves.
The Four Vows of a Dedicated and a Persevering Person
- Kamala-Vrata - It means the Vow of the Lotus. Although the lotus emerges from the muddy bottom of ponds, it remains pure and does not get soiled by mud at all. It remains dry and does not get wet even though it blooms out of water. Similarly, even while living in this world that has a fair amount of evil and sorrow, we should always remain virtuous and cheerful.
- Chandana-Vrata - It means the Vow of Sandalwood. When a piece of wood from the sandalwood tree is ground, it continues to emit a wonderful fragrance down to the last particle. Similarly, no matter how much hardship we have to endure, we should always continue to radiate the fragrance of a positive attitude.
- Ikṣudanda-Vrata - It means the Vow of a Sugar Cane. The cane of the sugar plant is crushed and mauled in many ways but it always yields a delicious and pleasant syrup, never a bitter or poisonous fluid. Likewise, no matter how much we are suppressed, we must never become bitter and should continue to exude blessings and good-wishes.
- Hema-Vrata - It refers to the Vow of Gold. Gold is heated and smelted into many shapes but it never loses its brilliance. In fact, it ends up as a beautiful ornament. Similarly, no matter how much we are tormented, we should forbear and continue to show the brilliance of our wisdom, knowledge and virtues. These torments and tribulations will then transform us into something that is even more beautiful, something that is better than what we were.
A Good Student is as persevering as a Crow
In Section II of the book, we had learned that one of the good qualities of a good student is that he keeps trying as a crow. What does this really mean? A fable of the Greek person named Aesop, who lived around the 6th cent BCE, wrote a beautiful story to explain this:
Story: The Thirsty Crow A thirsty crow encountered a jar of water. But, the water level in the jar was very low and the crow's beak could not reach it. The crow flew and picked up a pebble and dropped it into the jar. He made numerous trips in this way, till the collection of pebbles in the jar filled the jar sufficiently to raise the level of water. The cow was now able to drink it and quench his thirst.
Story: The Disabled Person who did not Give Up A severely handicapped young man went to a college. He had to go around in a wheel chair because he had cerebral palsy from childhood. Yet, he was always cheerful and positive. He also excelled in studies and regularly won the highest academic honors. One day, his friend asked in amazement, "Despite your disability, how are you so cheerful and positive all the time and how are you able to excel in your studies?" The young man replied, "My disease may have touched my body. But I did not allow it to touch my heart and my soul."
Why Should we show Fortitude and Commitment?
Bhagavān can be reached only by the Bhakta who shows fortitude and perseverance.
Story: Whom Does Bhagavān Viṣṇu grant Mokṣa? Once, Sage Nārada was on his way to Vaikunṭha, the abode of Bhagavān Viṣṇu when he encountered two Yogis meditating on Viṣṇu. They asked Nārada to check with Viṣṇu as to how many more lives they would have to experience and meditate before they attained Mokṣa. Sage Nārada did, as requested. On his way back from Vaikunṭha, he told the first Yogi, "Bhagavān Viṣṇu said that you will be reborn as many times as there are leaves on the tree under which you are meditating. So continue meditating for that number of lives and then your Ātman will merge with that of Viṣṇu." The Yogi replied, "Blessed I am that Bhagavān Viṣṇu has put a limit to the number of my rebirths. I will now continue to meditate with even greater enthusiasm, because I see light at the end of the tunnel. I am just happy with the fact that Viṣṇu is pleased with me."
The moment he had said this, Bhagavān Viṣṇu appeared and said, "My child! I will grant you Mokṣa here and now because you meditated not for any selfish motive including Moksha, but for My pleasure. Indeed, Mokṣa is only for those who lose their ego and attachment to their actions and fruits because they offer them solely to Me. You have all these qualities, and therefore, you do not have to be reborn even once anymore."
Then, Nārada went further and encountered the second Yogi to whom he said, "You have earned the favor of Viṣṇu. The Lord of the Universe said that you need to be reborn only 5 more lives now." The second Yogi, upon hearing this, fumed and fretted. He exclaimed, "I cannot believe that all my effort has so far been a waste. I spent my entire life meditating on Viṣṇu to get Mokṣa, and all I get is this! I think I deserved better. I do not have the patience to meditate for more time, forget about five more lives." He rolled his meditation mat and gave up his faith in Vishnu. As a result, he became distracted from the path of Mokṣa. In fact, he never had selfless faith in Viṣṇu because he was meditating only with the fruit of Mokṣa in mind.
If we give up too soon, we are left behind or run over in the World.
Story: The Parable of the Eagle and the Sparrows A beautiful eagle was flying high up in the skies. Two sparrows, sitting on the ground watched the eagle soar into the sky and float majestically at an incredible height. The younger sparrow felt waves of despair rise in its heart, "What is the use of flying at all," it said to the other bird. "If we fly, we should fly like the eagle. If we can't, it is better to burn away our wings. I am not going to fly at all hereafter." The older bird replied: "Brother, this is not the right attitude. We, too, have wings. And, we can fly. We should not yield to despair. Let us do what we can. There is beauty in that." Saying so, the older bird flew away. The younger one had not got over its dejection, when a hunter came along and easily caught it.
A saint is ever soaring into the Divine into the Divine and floating in the transcendental regions of Divine Bliss. All people cannot do that. But everyone has been endowed by God with some good qualities and some talents. Wisdom lies in utilizing them as much as you can. If you do not, you are likely to fall a prey to Tamas and sink lower in the ocean of Sansāra. "Let a man lift himself by himself; because we alone are our own friend and we are also our own enemy."
If we are not committed and persevering, we can never improve ourselves. Even the most hardened criminal can become virtuous and the most dullard student can become intelligent if he keeps trying. We had earlier read the story of Arjuna and how he became a good archer. We also read how Panini and Varadarāja became scholars. Here is another story of a murderer, who became a Sage that wrote the Rāmāyaṇa, because he was determined that he wanted to become a better person.
Story: The Dacoit Ratnākar becomes Sage Vālmiki Sage Vālmiki is called the "Adi Kavi" or the first poet in the Sanskrit language. He wrote the Rāmāyaṇa, the story of the life of Lord Rāma in 24,000 verses. The Rāmāyaṇa has become so popular that even outside of India, people in Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Laos, Malaysia, China, Japan and so on have their own versions of Rāmāyaṇa. But, it is the Rāmāyaṇa of Sage Vālmiki that is the original Rāmāyaṇa and other versions are copies of it. Did you know that Vālmiki was a dacoit in his earlier days?
Thousands of years ago, a dacoit named Ratnākar lived in the forests of north India. He earned his living by robbing and killing travelers who were passing through the forest. He would steal their belongings and food and then take it home to feed his own children and wife. One day, Sage Nārada was passing through the forest. Suddenly, Vālyā came from behind a bush and threatened to kill Nārada unless he gave up his belongings. Nārada asked Vālyā as to why he lived this life of robbing and killing. "To feed my family," replied Vālyā. Nārada asked him, "Don't you know it is a bad to kill and steal others? You will get bad Karma, and suffer punishment for it later. Will your family also share your bad Karma with you just like you share your loot with them?"
"Of course," said Vālyā. I will go and ask them and confirm it for you. But when Vālyā asked his wife and children if they will also share his bad Karma, they refused. They all said, "It is your duty to take care of us and feed us. This does not mean that we should also share your bad Karma with you." Now Vālyā was very sad, because the family whom he loved and for whom he did all the evil things was unwilling to share his bad deeds too. He realized that we all pay alone for our evil deeds and earn good fruit alone for our good deeds. Vālyā then decided to mend his ways and become a good person.
So he rushed back to Sage Nārada to tell him how sorry he was for all that he had done so far. "How can I atone for my bad deeds and become a good person?" Sage Nārada asked him to sit in meditation and continuously chant the name of Lord Rāma till he returned. So Sage Vālyā sat at one place and chanted "Rāma-Rāma" without moving for thousands of years till termite ants made an ant-hill called "Vālmiki" and complete covered his body. And therefore, he came to be known as Vālmiki. Finally, a Divine voice from heaven said that God is pleased with the devotion of Vālmiki and he can come out of the ant-hill. Sage Nārada appeared and told Vālmiki that now he was a reformed person.
In the course of time, Vālmiki then became a Saint and a great poet. He wrote the Rāmayaṇa, the story of the beautiful character of Lord Rāma. His first students were none other than Luv and Kush, the twin sons of Lord Rāma himself. When the two princes sang the Rāmāyaṇa in front of Lord Rāma, he was greatly overjoyed. Rāma confirmed that everything that is written in the Rāmāyaṇa about his life is true. The Rāmāyaṇa written by him became famous all over the world. Even today, millions of people read the Rāmāyaṇa and learn from the good virtues and deeds of Lord Rāma so that they can themselves lead better lives. The life of Sage Vālmiki shows that even an evil person can become a saint if he starts worshiping God with full devotion and faith and gives up bad deeds. If we want to give up bad habits, we should keep try rally hard and also ask God to help us. In the course of time, God will have mercy on us and he will change our minds so that we become virtuous.
We cannot even stick to our Dharma if we lack Fortitude and Commitment. Many Hindus migrate from Hindu countries like India and Nepal to other places in search of a better livelihood. In their new environment, they encounter totally new cultures and religions. When we try to practice the Dharma that were born into, we frequently face hurdles. Sometimes the government laws prevent us from practicing our worship ceremonies (e.g., in Saudi Arabia, where Murtis are broken into pieces and Mandirs cannot be constructed) and at other times, the local non-Hindu population itself opposes our customs. Hindus who are not dedicated and who lack courage then stop practicing their own Dharma and convert to other religions. But Hindus who are brave, persevering and dedicated towards our Dharma find out a way to remain Hindus. Here is an inspiring story of a man from the country of Trinidad and Tobago in South America.
Story: A Temple in the Ocean More than 150 years ago, the British started taking people from India to work on sugar plantations on the island of Trinidad in the Atlantic Ocean. Most Indians were Hindus, but the British did not allow them to practice their Hindu Dharma. One Hindu man named Śivadas Sadhu built a small Mandir of Śiva on a farm. But the government broke it, saying, "The land does not belong to you." Śivadas said, "The land might be yours, but the sea belongs to no one!" So every day after work, Śivdas started carrying stones and rocks in a leather bag on his bicycle. He started putting them on the coast of the sea and slowly built a long path in the ocean. At the end of the path, he then constructed a small island. After many years of hard work, he finally constructed a Hindu Mandir on that island.
The government of Trinidad and Tobago recognized his dedication to Hindu Dharma and declared the Mandir as a national monument. This means, that Trinidad recognizes the Mandir built by Śivadas as an important part of the culture of that country! Let us learn from Śivdas, and build Mandirs to Bhagavān and practice our Dharma wherever we go, even if the local government puts hurdles in our ways.
We must have commitment and fortitude to even fulfill our promises.
Story: The Sacrifice of Bhāmati, the wife of Vāchaspati Mishra In ancient India, it was a Hindu tradition to give a gift called "Guru Dakṣinā" to the teacher once the student had completed his education. In the 8th century, in the Indian state of Bihar, Vachaspati Mishra was one of the most brilliant students of his Guru. When his education was coming to an end, the Guru called for Vachaspati and requested, "I have only one daughter Bhāmatī. She is also a very learned woman. I would like you to be her husband. This is my command." Vāchaspati replied, "That would be my honor. But I also want to give you a Guru Dakṣinā per our tradition."
The Guru replied, "Very well then. I want you to write a detailed explanation of the Brahmasutras. My daughter is very learned and she will help you too." Vāchaspati and Bhāmatī got married, but he said to her, "Till I do not complete this explanation of the Brahmasutras, we should not live like husband and wife. I must pay my Guru Dakṣinā first before I can accept you fully as my wife." Bhāmatī agreed.
Day and night, the two studied many different scriptures and he wrote beautiful explanations on all the schools of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. Finally, after mastering all these schools of philosophy, the couple started working on the explanation of the Brahmasutra using the earlier work on the Brahmasutras by Śankarācharya as their basis. Many years passed and Bhāmatī lovingly served her husband and fulfilled all his needs even while helping with his scholarly work.
One late night, when the book was completed, Vāchaspati fell asleep at his desk. When he woke up, he noticed that Bhāmatī had placed her own blanket on him, because it was a cold night. He looked at her carefully for the first time and saw that with time, she had become old and so had he. Their hair had turned white. Now, they were too old to have any children.
And yet, all these years, even though he never paid any attention to her services and to her sacrifice, she had never complained. She had smilingly chosen to help her husband in his work even though that meant living several decades of your youth as a childless married lady. Vāchaspati was very moved by her devotion to him and in his honor, he named his last work and greatest work on the Brahmasutras as "Bhāmatī". This beautiful work perpetuated the memory of her dedication, love and sacrifice for Vāchaspati Mishra, and is even today considered one of the greatest classics of Hindu philosophy.
Fortitude and Dedication are required to complete all great tasks
Story: How the Gangā River came to the Earth The Ganga is also called "Ganges" is the holiest river for the Hindus. Many sacred cities like Haridwar and Varanasi are located on its banks. Every year, millions of Hindus go to the Ganga for a dip in its waters and pray to Bhagavān. Hindus also believe that a part of the Gangā river is present in other great rivers of India, like the Kaveri and Godavari. But Ganga did not always flow on this earth. Hindus believe that the waters of Ganga used to be present at the feet of Bhagavān Viṣṇu in the past. The story that we will read now tells us how Ganga came down to this earth, according to the Hindu scriptures.
A great king named Sagar ruled the kingdom of Ayodhya several thousand years ago. He had two wives "Sumati and Keshin". From them, he had 60,001 sons. Sagar decided to do an Ashvamedha Yajna. This was a grand ceremony after which he was to be crowned as the emperor of the whole world. But for one year before the ceremony, a white horse would be let loose on the earth. The horse would be free to go anywhere it wanted. If anyone captured that horse during that 1 year, he would have to fight the army of Sagar. If Sagar lost in this war, he could not become the emperor of the world. But if Sagar defeated everyone who had captured his horse, he would win and become emperor of the world.
When the horse started walking around, Sagar's sons started following it. Now, in heaven, Indra became worried. He was the king of all the devatās in heaven. But if Sagar became the King of the whole earth, he might then also start attacking heaven. Indra played a trick to defeat Sagar. He stole the horse and hid it in a cave where Ṛṣi Kapila was meditating.
The sons of Sagar reached the cave in search of that horse. They saw that the horse was standing next to Ṛṣi Kapila and they thought that he had stolen it. They got very angry at the Ṛṣi and started to beat him. Ṛṣi Kapila was a great saint and he got angry. He looked at the sons of Sagar and fire came out of his eyes. In a few minutes, all the sons of Sagar got burned and their bodies turned into ashes.
When the horse and his sons did not show up in Ayodhya for a long time, Sagar asked his grandson Amshumān to go and search for them. When Amshumān reached the cave, he saw the horse and Ṛṣi Kapila in meditation. Amshumān was a great devotee of Bhagavān Viṣṇu. He realized immediately that Ṛṣi Kapila was an Avatāra of none other than Viṣṇu. He bowed to the Ṛṣi, said a prayer to him and got His blessings. The Ṛṣi was pleased with Amshumān. He told Amshumān of what had happened to his Uncles. He said, "Your uncles did a great evil act by trying to harm me when I was meditating. The only way they can get rid of that sin is to bring Ganga waters to earth, and make them flow on the ashes of their burned bodies." Amshumān took the horse back to Sagar, where they completed the Ashvamedha Yajna. Sagar was now the emperor of the whole world.
After Sagar, Amshumān became the emperor. He remembered what Ṛṣi Kapila had said about freeing his uncles from evil by bringing the waters of Gangā. So he meditated a lot and prayed to get the Gangā on the earth, but he failed. After Amshumān, his son Dilīpa became the emperor and he too tried to get the Ganga to the earth. But he failed as well. After Dilīpa, his son Bhagīratha became the next emperor.
Bhagīratha was very determined to free his ancestors from evil. He did not give up his meditation and worship. Finally, Gangā appeared in front of him and said, "I am willing to come down to the earth. But I have one worry. The force of my water falling from the heaven will be so great that it will destroy the earth. Bhagīratha now prayed to Śiva.
Śiva was pleased with Bhagīratha and said , "Here is the plan when Ganga descends from the abode of Viṣṇu to the earth, I will stand in the way. My long hair will capture the following waters. This way, they will not fall directly to the earth and therefore the earth will not get destroyed by the river's force. The plan worked. Ganga fell from the skies on Śiva's hair. Bhagīratha walked away from Śiva towards the ashes of his ancestors. The river Ganga's waters followed Bhagīratha obediently till they flowed over the ashes.
With the touch of the water, the ashes got transformed into the bodies of the sons of Sagar. Then, they all arose and reached heaven. River Gangā also provided water to millions of farmers to grow crops and water to humans and animals for drinking. Without the waters of Ganga, India cannot not survive and become a great country. Therefore, Hindus call the Ganga as "Mā Ganga" which means "Mother Ganges" because she nourishes us just like a mother nourishes her children. The river Ganga is also called Bhāgīrathi, because it was due to the efforts of Bhagīratha that she came down to the earth.
The story of Sagar, Amshumān, Dilīpa and Bhagīratha gives us a very important lesson. Sometimes, it takes not just one but many people in many generations to complete a big task. Therefore, we should not lose patience if we do not succeed. Instead, many more people should join in the efforts to achieve the goal and complete the task for the good of everyone, even if it takes many generations of people to do so.
Did You Know
Unlike water taken from other rivers, ponds or other water bodies, the water from Ganga does not become stale (i.e. germs do not grow in it) and does not stink even when it is kept in a bottle for several years!
Story: Guru Golwalkar teaches the value of Fortitude to his followers In response to a call given by Guru Golwaklar in 1942 during the Quit India movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi, thousands of youth all over India vowed to dedicate themselves entirely for the work of Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS, a Hindu voluntary organization) on a whole-time basis. Thus, the branches of RSS sprouted even in remote corners of the country.
During tours, Guru Golwalkar was very particular about keeping to the time-schedules, totally unmindful of vagaries of weather, floods, winds, heat or cold. Nothing came in the way of his predetermined program. Once, rains began to pour right at the time of the Prayer. The RSS workers in attendance were naturally upset. One of them rushed and opened an umbrella and tried to hold it over Guruji. Without disturbing his posture of prayer, Guruji closed the umbrella with his left hand and completed the prayer in the torrential rain. While talking to the volunteers soon thereafter he said, "If we are scared of even inclement weather, how can we achieve our goal? Those ready to do anything for the cause of the country should pay least heed to the needs of their body. How could we become eligible for worship of the nation unless we overcome the nature?"
When do we stop Trying?
In a war, the soldiers do not just keep charging to their death if defeat is certain. They withdraw, recoup and prepare for another day, when they can fight their enemy with a greater certainty of defeating him. In a similar way, a wise student does not give up too soon and remains committed to completing his homework, sports practice and other stuff. But at the same time, he is mature enough to realize when his efforts are not bearing any fruit and when he should get help or return to his homework or activity at another time. Taking a step back does not mean that we have given up and that we lack dedication or perseverance, it only means that we have made a practical choice to fight our problems when we are more equipped to deal with them. Of course, we must not give up just too soon and without trying hard enough.
What do you think of this statement? "A spider fell into a cup of milk and was not able to crawl out. He kept moving his legs till it had churned the milk so much that it had changed into solid yoghurt. Then the spider crawled out."
- Swami Akhandanand Saraswati (1970), pp. 20-21
- Rajinder Singh, p. 6
- Swami Śivananda 2004. Parables of Swami Śivananda. The Divine Life Society. Tehri-Garhwal (Uttaranchal), India. Pages 39-40 with slight modifications.
- The Brahmasutras is a short work of around 550 short sentences which present the teachings of Upaniṣads about Bhagavān, the nature of this world and other spiritual matters in a systematic manner. The Upaniṣads are that part of the Vedas which focuses on these spiritual topics and explains how we can reach Bhagavān also called as Brahman in the Upaniṣads.
- Puttige, pp. 27-29