In the great Indian epic, Ramayana, a story about the great King Dasaratha, the father of the Lord Rama. One day, the young king Dasaratha was on his hunting trip. He heard a sound in the bush near the river. Assuming it was an animal that came to drink water he launched his arrow. Suddenly he heard a human voice cyring. Accidentally, he had hit the son of a brahmin who came to fetch water and he died. Knowing the death of the son, the brahmin runs to the spot. He cries and curses the King that he too will suffer the separation of his son just as he is suffering now. For the rude act of cursing him, the ruler of the land , King Dasaratha could’ve had the brahmin punished. Instead he thanked him. For quite long, king had no child. He felt grateful for the brahmin’s curse, because at least to fulfill his curse he will have a son. Even in the moments of curse, he found the blessing.
We all know the sorrow and suffering that King Dasaratha went through during the 14 years of Vanavasa that Ram was exiled to. But the king was felt indeed blessed to have the Lord himself to born as his son and to be part of the great Indian Epic.
Curse turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
On the other end of the work, in the Rome and Greece, the birthplace of modern Western Civilization, the Stoics had a similar way of dealing with failures. The Stoics had an exercise called Turning the Obstacle Upside Down. Marcus Aurelius, then great Emperor of Rome calls it as to act with ‘a reverse clause’.
- Someone doesn’t appreciate the help that you gave them – then consider that it is a moment for you to learn patience and not expecting appreciation for goodness you do.
- If any one of your valuable things gets stolen – what you are being taught to learn to independent of that item
- Pringles’ initial intention was to make tennis balls. But on the day that the rubber was supposed to show up, a big truckload of potatoes arrived. But Pringles was a laid-back company. They said “Fuck it. Cut ‘em up.” – Pringles is a famous potato chip company
- Other day to my new apartment and I made a wrong turn, at first I was annoyed, then I realized that this was just an opportunity for me to learn a new route home.
People have different words to describe this phenomenon:
- Blessing in disguise…
- Bad things became good…
- Obstacle is the way…
- Problem as opportunity
It resonates with what Sir Winston Churchill says
“Success is nothing but moving from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm.”
So is this rewritten eloquently in ‘The Bhagvat Gita’ in the definition of a ‘seer’:
“They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them, who have renounced every selfish desire and sense craving tormenting the heart. Neither agitated by grief nor hankering after pleasure, they live free from lust and fear and anger. Established in meditation, they are truly wise. Fettered no more by selfish attachments, they are neither elated by good fortune nor depressed by bad. Such are the seers…”
We cannot help but to get on with life. So when we lose one blessing, another is often present.
Obstacle do shape our attitude. Our lives.
Everyone must have seen it in their life. The fact that within a bad event, lays the seed for something better. A few are able to see this, but not many arrive at this understanding.
- I found that I could be grateful for just about anything, even the bad stuff.
- Sick with a cold? I could be grateful for my health when I’m not sick.
- Lost a business? I could be grateful for the opportunity to start over.
- Someone is rude to me? I could be grateful that they were showing me a good example of who I don’t want to be.
Tasks/ Events/ things – are neither good or bad. Thinking makes it so.
Exercise: Finding the blessing in disguise
Try this exercise.
Take a piece of paper and pen or pencil. Draw a line right in the middle of the paper, dividing the page into two equal columns. Name the left column as bad event, and the write column as ‘blessing in disguise’. List down the number of bad events that happened in your life in the left column. Correspondingly, write the consequent good side effect that happened because of that bad event. Don’t restrict yourself. It could be as small as ‘not waking up early today’ (may be because of that you avoided the usually over-crowded traffic) to as big as ‘a heart break-up or failing a major job interview or missing a major clientele’ etc (may be because of that you found though a small, but set of loyal customer).
So, what are the best failures that happened to me and turned a blessing in disguise?
- Failure of love
- Failure of job
- Failure of salary/ career
Just know that failure is not opposite to success, but an essential ingredient in the process of succeeding.
So, indeed, it is a good thought exercise to consider thoughts as opportunities for growth. I am not suggesting go look for a problem, but when it presents itself consider that as an opportunity rather than impediment to action.
Do you remember any time when such things turn around – when the problem that happened in life, indeed, became an opportunity? How did you benefit from it?
There is saying that it (the bad event) was blessing in disguise.
So, in the words of the great Sufi poet, Rumi:
“True understanding is to see the events of life in this way: ‘You are here for my benefit, though rumor paints you otherwise.’ And everything is turned to one’s advantage when he greets a situation like this: You are the very thing I was looking for. Truly whatever arises in life is the right material to bring about your growth and the growth of those around you. This, in a word, is art — and this art called ‘life’ is a practice suitable to both men and gods. Everything contains some special purpose and a hidden blessing.”
Everything is a blessing indeed.