Dharma is subtle, or so they say. I have nothing really to go by, but this sounds about right. I have always had problems with the concept of a set of codified rules. Even in smaller context, I have felt that codified rules lead to absurd situations. As the context grows, probably a set of rules become a necessary evil – except that in the context of life, it simply doesn’t work. Life is too complex for rules and absolutely priceless to base on a compromise. Therefore, it is a sense of right and wrong – inherent to all human beings – that must remain the source of all judgment. It will also remain strictly individual with no possibility of scaling up. When you scale it up, it becomes a set of rules based on someone else’s sense of right and wrong. It is this inherent individual sense of right and wrong, fungible and defying all definitions , that for me is “Dharma”.
It is this sense of Dharma that makes one sit up and notice the work of others. The variety of such work is limitless – it could be a beautiful piece of music, a well made movie, a good game of sports, literature, an act of kindness, a small gesture, et all. The common thread binding all such things for each one of us individually is our own Dharma. When our Dharma agrees with something around us, we feel pleasure – simply because for a fraction of second or more, we feel the oneness of creation – that elusive unity that is rare but everything.
I am reminded of this on revisiting in a couple of hours the life’s work of Sachin Tendulkar – a man that dominated cricket in India like no individual has any sports (Sachin: A Billion Dreams). I am not overwhelmed by his achievements, I grew up with them. Nothing he achieved surprised my generation – for we believed he could do anything. Whether it was scoring a century of centuries or a double century in limited over cricket, he did it and we were overjoyed – but not surprised.
What made me sit up and notice Sachin is not his talent or his achievements but the immensity of effort it must have taken in this journey – and the honesty and integrity that would have been necessary to be able to keep walking the line. He was no maverick, he toiled hard. He applied himself, each day through from the age of 7 when he chose the game as his life’s work. What others see is the result, what the actor goes through is the process. And that process is sweat and tears, and some smile and a lot of joy intermittently.
Two questions come to mind – common when one deals with actors of great achievement. First, is the value of one’s work to be informed by one’s actions outside of that sphere? Second, is the process of that work already sufficient achievement for the actor or is “success” necessary for him to be happy?
In the eternal debate that the first question has inspired over centuries, I take the side of the work. For me, the work stands on its own footing. I do not see it as a subset of its creator. For me Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment will continue to hold a sacred position in literature – no matter even if it was revealed now that he committed the vilest of crimes. For me, Sachin’s cricket will remain forever a work of art that succeeded multiple number of times in flashing the divine to innumerable people – that momentary sense of oneness that is the secret of all pleasure. It will not matter how he ages. Therefore, Sachin the man does not interest me. His work does.
The second question is more difficult to answer. One has to live an alternate life to know whether succeeding in one’s effort or not matters to one’s personal happiness. Therefore, it can only be explored speculatively. I believe that the process is the secret to personal happiness. I believe if one applies oneself to one’s satisfaction, what you will end achieving out of it – a bit more or less – will be satisfactory. It will be respected and therefore valued. And when you value what you achieve, you are bound to be happy. I hope this is true, for the alternate would be too disheartening. It would be too crude, even for the consumerist world we have become.
I insist in my romanticism that the process is all that matters. For I believe that the Dharma of each is different, and it insists on distinct actions – some big, some small, some on the large stage of this world as an actor, some in the background without which the play could not be – but which remains hidden from view. Action of those hidden from the view is neither lesser nor it bring’s less pleasure. For if this is not so, one would suggest that the work of Sachin’s father was less than his. The work of Sachin’s wife and his brother did not matter. That their pleasure was not the same. I don’t think that’s true.
There is something that Sachin’s work should have taught us Indians in the last couple of decades. It should have taught us Dharma, it should have made us understand the meaning of applying oneself truly. It should have shown us what hard work can achieve, and inspired us to choose our own individual paths for life with honesty and integrity. Instead we chose to focus on the man. We chose to chant his name and branded him God and believed he was a magician. We turned a man’s life’s hard work into a sorcerer’s trick.
I wish that this movie, that compresses into two hours a million hours of sweat and work will let us see things differently. I hope we will be truly inspired to live life like he played cricket – with integrity and sincerity – and with pleasure.