What does it take to be a practical man? BATURAM NAYAK unravels the complexities of being one
People often say, “Be practical.” What does it mean? Who is a practical man and what makes him one? This is the central question of education and social psychology as well.
More so, this is an important question of practical spirituality. Making a person capable enough to deal with his unique life situation with the least psychological and social friction is the basic purpose of education. Education, to be precise, is an exercise in the making of a practical man.
Every sensible person carries within himself an innate desire to develop a constructive path for himself, which can not only make his own life meaningful but also his social-life so intelligible to him that he can strike a healthy fusion between these two. The degree of his success or failure in striking this fusion determines the magnitude of his fulfilment as a human being.
All the efforts of the teachers of humanity and the messages of our spiritual heritage are directed at this one-point program ― the making of a practical man, who can be self-sufficient enough to make a healthy fusion of the hard facts and high values of life, so that life becomes friction free and full of ease.
But before the meaning and purpose of life can be apparent, one has to go through the Dark Age of his life like theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who had posed some perplexing questions at his time, which are equally relevant for people of all times and ages.
He asks: Who am I? Why am I brought here? Why did I gain interest in this vast project called the Universe? Is it mandatory on my part to take part in it?
And if so, whom I will turn to with my complaints? Where is that Director, if at all there is one?
This is indeed the dilemma of a man who faces the facts of life point-blank and ponders over it like it were a riddle. It remains a riddle for him till he finds a meaning in living, till he gets a value for which he should live for as well as die for in life.
The plight of such a man is articulated in the character of Arjuna, the great mythical archer of our history. He lands in the vortex of the battlefield after all the efforts of peace-making with the Kauravas fail. The fact of the situation demands nothing but war against his brothers. Arjuna ponders whether it is worthwhile on his part to fight! Getting perplexed with the inevitability of war, he asks his charioteer Lord Krishna:
ज्यायसी चेत्कर्मणस्ते मता बुद्धिर्जनार्दन
तत्किं कर्मणि घोरे मां नियोजयसि केशव ॥
“If you vouch Knowledge to be superior to Action, then why oh Lord, you are engaging me in this terrible Action?”
Lord Krishna’s discourse of the Bhagavad Gita continues till the mental block of Arjuna is removed and it is revealed to him that he should honestly deliver the duty of a Kshatriya for the sake of establishment of justice for humanity. The fact of being a Kshatriya or a warrior is justified only when it is fused with the highest value it entails ― waging a war as and when it becomes inevitable for the sake of safeguarding Justice. Otherwise “the split-within” the Kshatriya is inevitable and he ceases to be a practical man, the only way for a Kshatriya to be.
This is equally so, with each one of us. Our unique life-situations dictate to us our own values, which we should fight for to be authentic. The day we start making a little value-addition with whatever we do, life becomes meaningful and it is revealed to us in a new key.
American psychologist Abraham H. Maslow has beautifully dealt with this “Fact-Value-Fusion” in his book, “Farther Reaches of Human Nature”, which is a masterpiece in itself. Here are a few extracts from his book, which very succinctly ask us to hear the fact-voice of our life situations and respond to it with authenticity, so that life becomes more meaningful and fulfilling for ourselves.
1. Facts have authority and demand character.
2. The oughtiness, demand character or required ness or built-in-request-for-action, (Of Facts) seem to affect only those people who can see clearly the intrinsic nature of the percept.
3. Because healthier, more perceptive people are less ought-blind, because they let themselves perceive what the facts wish, what they call for, what they suggest, demand or beg for…they will have less trouble with all value decisions.
4. If the facts are fully known, they will guide us and tell us what to do…In order to be able to hear the fact-voices, it is necessary to be very quiet, to listen very receptively…in a Taoistic fashion.
Facts themselves carry, within their own nature, suggestions about what must be done with them.
And he, who can discover this call of fact and do justice to it by responding appropriately to it as per his swadharma, becomes a practical man and leads a fiction-free, taint-free and remorse-free life.
A sense of fulfilment and blissfulness, just simply ensues as a byproduct of being authentic.
Baturam Nayak, a postgraduate in economics, joined the banking sector in 1983 and retired in June 2020. He is a firm believer in simplicity and minimalism. “My faith is Oneness, एकत्वम्; that’s the way I would express myself and live in harmony with everything,” he says.