Life becomes easier for us if we subscribe to a set of values.
At the dinner table, during one of the conversations, my sons said, “Amma, Ninjas stole the air scroll from Robin, the thief. Ninjas had to use the air scroll to learn air spinjitsu to save Ninjago. It’s ok to steal from a thief as they had no other option to save Ninjago. But you tell us stealing is bad.” Ninjago is a Kids TV Program on Netflix, where the Ninjas fight all the bad forces to keep their city, Ninjago, safe.
My kids amaze me all the time. So, many times, I underestimate them because of their age, yet Sanjay (my husband) and I get flabbergasted with the topics they bring forth for discussions. I could relate to their dilemma. Their superheroes, the Ninjas, were stealing, and they heard them say, “Two negatives will make a positive, it’s ok to steal from a thief to save Ninjago.” They have heard from us, “Stealing is wrong.” There was a clash of values, and the kids were confused as to whom to listen to. I was so glad they chose to discuss the topic with Sanjay and me.
We had a long discussion on this topic. To gain better clarity, my sons debated on every perspective we gave them. The conversation ended when we told them, “Sometimes, it’s tricky to understand if our actions are right or wrong, as actions can be judged from so many different angles. In such tricky situations, ask yourself a different question – ‘Are my intentions behind my actions, right? Why am I doing what I am doing?’”
The profoundness of the discussion got me thinking further. As adults, do we have clarity on why we are doing, what we are doing? Our mind plays so many games with us; the battles we fight are often the battles that rage in our own head. Am I doing the right thing? Is it worth all my effort to live upholding standpoints in my life, or can I settle for the easier option?
I could immediately appreciate the great thinkers, the religious founders who laid the dos and the don’ts for us. Each religion gave us values to live by. Values guide, help us stay on track and act as a basis for evaluating ourselves. Concepts of Heaven and Hell, tortuous punishments that man will undergo in the afterlife for every wrong, were communicated to help us all to live a righteous life.
Today, as a generation with so many technological advancements, we understand Heaven and Hell may just be concepts and not reality. We are bold enough to question religion, the dos and don’ts that have been laid out, the application of these laws and the impact it creates in our lives. We are questioning, arguing and refuting everything, till we find evidence that supports the claims.
Through this constant endeavour, we are understanding and simplifying religion for the common man. Instead of a blind cultish following of religious beliefs, the application of these laws become easier and more consistent if we understand the science behind these laws.
Just like how the saying goes, “One man’s food is another man’s poison,” each of us needs to discover a set of values that’s custom made for us. There are universal rights and wrongs, which we need to follow, but a majority of beliefs, standpoints and values can be personalized. So, from the main universal set, a subset is created. This subset is personalized, customized and an individualistic set that perfectly helps in living a righteous life. Why do we need to do this? Are all values not implementable? Are all values not needed?
The rituals and practices that resonate with our lifestyle can become part of the value subset.
Definitely, all values make sense and are equally important. Since, we are individuals with different tastes, natures and temperaments, this concept of ‘one size fits all’ does not work. Some of us will not adhere to value-based living if we don’t believe far greater consequences apply to our actions. Some of us need an explanation, a justification and intellectual convincing for us to lead a value-based life; we need the science behind the values.
If each of us can examine our lives and come up with an individualized subset of values from our beliefs, from our parents, from our heroes, from our religion, from the environment we live in, from the stories of triumph we hear, from the discourses we attend… the motivation to practice these values and integrate them as a way of our life will come from within us.
There is no compulsion here, there is no external pressure to do or be someone or practice some rituals which we don’t like. The rituals and practices that resonate with our lifestyle can become part of the value subset. The values can be rooted in one belief system or borrowed from a combination of belief systems or religions. The set of values are created by us, for us, and hence the application of the same is completely personalized.
For example: One universal law which every religion preaches is ‘to have faith’. The personalized part of this universal truth is for each individual to choose their object of faith.
Life becomes easier if we create this subset. At the moment of decision making, all we have to do is to run the decision through the value subset to check if it adheres to righteous living or not. That’s why, in the Ninjago TV show, it’s an easy decision for the Ninjas to steal, though stealing is a wrong action, because one of their values said, “For a larger good, a small wrong act is ok.”
If we have to live a value-based life, if we have to live a righteous life, then we have to get rid of the intellectual manipulation that happens within us. The individualized value subset will help here. When our own intelligence twists, turns and bend facts, it gives us reasoning to do what’s comforting and not what’s right. We will grow in our own eyes by practicing our individualized value subset.
There is no room for ego here because no one is correcting us from the outside; it’s up to us, it’s within us, it’s our own definitions and principles to uphold or to fall to temptations. The individualized value subset gives us absolute clarity on why we are upholding this value, what our standpoints are, what we are willing to trade, and why we are doing what we are doing. Since, it’s our own value subset, modifications and enhancements become easier too. We can drop values or add/borrow values, beliefs from other religions and from other cultures if we want to.
Also, there is nothing superior or inferior about the value subset. There is nothing to prove to anyone; no comparisons can be made as it is so personalized and individualistic in nature. All the battles in the name of religion will prove futile. Only the reward of living a value-based life remains. There is no greater incentive to right living than the peace that gets intertwined with life… It is simply priceless… Let’s all experience it.