Exclusive to Vedic Management Centre by U. Mahesh Prabhu
How do we know that a decision we take would yield us the best results? What constitutes a good decision? How do we know a decision to be bad before we take it? Questions like these often baffle people from all walks of life. We are essentially the sum total of the decisions we take. Yet, prevailing management subjects offer us little help in understanding the nature and art of decision making.
The commensurate investments we do in our relationships and education is all for the sake of better life which derive ultimately from the decisions we take. And yet, in the end, we often end up regretting most decisions we take – rather than being happy for them. When the regret engrosses our mind – we feel pain; when it yields the desired results – we experience pleasure. What wouldn’t people give to know the precise consequenced of their decisions before they take them? Yet, with all the technological advances and sophistication to our lives we are miles away from understanding the science of good decision making.
Vedic seers (Rishis and Munis), who’ve written about the nature of Self and the mind for the sake of human betterment, have many insights to offer in this area. Vedic texts called Neetis (or axioms of wisdom) speak about it in detail.
To understand a decision, we need to understand the self behind them. We’re not the things we own or collect or possess, including this body. We’re also not the mind. Considering ourselves to be the mind is the cause of delusion. Delusional mind is essentially an unhealthy mind. The unhealthy mind is the mind filled with fear. Fear and danger aren’t the same. Danger is real – fear is just an emotion. We can ignore emotion but not circumstances. Though a delusional or fearful mind we misread the circumstances and take the decisions that prove detrimental.
A delusional mind eclipses its own rational ability. It can make us think too much, or too little of our own abilities. It can make us to ignore opportunities or, worse, take too many risks, causing commensurate pain. Delusion mind is a state of pain, which only causes more pain.
Happiness should be perpetual – which most people don’t understand. Pleasure, which the mind feels momentarily, is a result of a sense of accomplishment which could be false. We can be happy finding a treasure box but, on opening, when finding it empty we feel pain. We can be happy with finding the “right person” in our lives and feel pain when we see through them and their ulterior motives. Most of the time our mind seeks pleasure from what are verily the objects of pain. Therefore, Rishi Vashistha suggests “That which can bring pleasure can also bring the pain.” When the decision is by a mind that is deluded – the decision is very painful.
According to Vedic scriptures, that mind is deluded which is infested with any, or all, of the six detrimental qualities, called Arishadvargas, namely: Kama (desire), Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (infatuation), Mada (ego) and Matsarya (envy). Since a most people possess at least one of the said qualities it’s not easy to find those who aren’t. A great many believe that it’s impossible to live without them. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
Bhartrihari in his revered Sanskrit work Neeti Shataka (Hundred verses on wisdom) states, “What the mind comprehends to be a pleasure, today, may as well consider to be pain tomorrow.” For example, when we are infants all that we desired was our mother, nothing else meant more to us. As kids, we loved to play all day long and moved steadily away from the bonds of our family to our friends. As teenagers and youth, we take fancy to sensory enjoyments and seek the company of the people we love. We even fight our very family to marry the person our mind believes to be in love with. In many cases, this very love dies not much after marriage.
Consider this, how much of your decisions in life are taken without any external influences? While you may consider being this to be many – on deeper retrospection you’d wonder how few of the decisions in your life were your own! When you were born you were given values by your parents which have been deeply rooted in your mind. Your first school was most certainly not your decision. When you chose a college – it is likely that your parents, faculties, and friends influenced it. For most people their job too isn’t their choice. Impulses make people join relationships and even marry simply out of peer pressure.
Most people cannot take decisions on their own and depend on their near and dear ones. This is owing to fear – of losing them. When things go wrong the very relationships come under intense pressure. All causing more pain.
So, how do we get out of such pain? How do we know what’s best for ourselves? It all begins with understanding the truth that we’re neither this body nor the mind. (Read: Effective Decision Making: Why understanding Mana and Aatmana is crucial)
Once you know who you are – you’d know your mind and the body. You find out effectively their true potentials. You won’t pursue something when you know it to be unwise. We take unwise decisions either owing to ignorance or false impulses of a disturbed mind. Understanding your own true self will deliver you from all such shortcomings. Making every decision sensibly productive and effective.
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure effective decisions without delusions:
- UNDERSTAND: Before you take any decision(s), you need to understand the necessity, circumstances, and goal You need to make sure if what you are taking the decision for is that which you really need. In an era of propaganda, it’s important that we see the facts. It’s imperative to understand that data isn’t information, information isn’t knowledge and knowledge isn’t wisdom. But it’s important to have the right information and data before you can use your knowledge, and without wisdom all knowledge is Wisdom cannot be achieved unless you’re detached and don’t let emotions – be that lust, anger, greed, infatuation, ego or envy – get the better of your mind. So, your decision-making process should never have any trace of said six detrimental qualities.
- ANALYSE: Analysis is crucial in all decision-making processes. In simple language, analysis is nothing but comprehending all possible results of the decisions we undertake and ensuring our preparedness. It’s always helpful to be prepared for the worst. If we are not being able to comprehend, let alone prepare, for the worst – it’s almost certain that we’re sure to take unwise decisions. The analysis is often theoretical. But analysis must not be driven by emotions, fear particularly. When we think with fear – our mind loses its objectivity. And the very process of analysis turns into a painful process. Living according to the moment is the only thing we can do. The wise do that without fear. When we are born we come with nothing and when we die we take nothing. When you accept this truth, you are verily liberated. The life then becomes a game of endurance. Analysis cannot be effectively done unless you understand the law of Causation (cause and effect) or Karma. Even science believes in the fact that all that happens is owing to a cause which leads to an effect.
- DETACH: Unless we are detached we can neither understand nor analyze. Detachment is the key to happiness which can only be achieved the moment you let go of the fruits of actions. Know for sure that you’ll value something more only when you don’t have it and when you’ve lost it. Nothing in life is eternal. Change is the only constant. So, knowing this stay detached and be happy.
- LISTEN: It helps to listen to people – but not to argue. Arguments don’t take us farther than emotional stress. Discussions are healthy and necessary. Before you take a decision try to run it by people who are unrelated to your decisions and are not directly affected by them. If you have your doubts ask – if they appear too passionate, try to give their decisions a second thought.
- TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: In life, you have a great many relationships which can prove to be a liability, more so when your decisions are for the sake of appeasement. There’s no one in this world you need to appease more than your own Self – call it Atman or conscience. If your conscience suggests you take something but the mind and other people say otherwise – it helps to follow your conscience. People can turn their backs on you sooner or later. But if you never listen to your conscience you’ll suffer more pain. When your conscience approves something, it means you are prepared to take full responsibility for the consequences of your decisions. As a result, even if the decision is against your intended expectations – you’ll verily find a way to better it and, then, live with it.
- DON’T BLAME: When you take full responsibility for your decisions – it also means that you don’t blame anyone else or, even, external circumstances. If blaming others is in your nature – it’s a sign of an unhealthy It’s also a mind that is heavily deluded. There’s nothing you can do if you believe everything is outside your reach, and that there’s nothing you can do about it. You then become a complainer and a sheer loser.
- ACCEPT THE TRUTH: The only constant in life is change. So being attached to people or things can only make life painful. Learn to accept this truth. Learn, also, to adapt to changes in life. Accept the truth that you – alone – are responsible for your life. Others can offer only limited guidance and assistance. Expecting them to help all the time is a downright stupidity.