Sunday, 24 January 2010


My idea, and I'll be presumptuous enough to say that most people's idea of responsibility is one of a duty to be done, of being accountable, of a set of rules to be followed, and of being the causative agent of a consequence. In this sense, responsibility is burdensome. There is always the stress of having to be "right" else to face the music, the risk of being blamed for the consequences, the pressure of other people being dependent on you and the power, pleasure and pain of being able to conduct another person's life even for a tiny moment. Stress is almost the spouse of this responsibility then isn't it? But then evading it isn't entirely pleasant either. Afterall we all want to be married (most of us atleast)! Evasion of this kind of responsibility brings with it a sense of guilt and paradoxically, there is an almost instictive desire to take on as little of it as is possible for none of us want to be blamed for that which goes wrong.

In understanding responsibility in this manner, what we have done is to link it inexorably with action. Not just link it, but make it an afterthought to action. One has "done" something so one must be "responsible" for it. It becomes a matter of staking claim. One takes responsibility (and thus, praise and admiration) willingly and voluntarily when the going is good and shuns it as far as possible when things get rough. Responsibility here also becomes defined in a highly external sense, with respect to what we "owe" those around us.

But like all the other things that we talked about in those seven days, Sadhguru offered us another away of looking at the idea of responsiblity. One that is internal and does not have connotations of praise or blame attached to it. Responsibility could, very simply, be the ability to respond to the things that surround us and make up life. In this sense, responsibility preceeds action. It is not about taking a particular course of action or being answerable to someone. It is only the choice to respond as a living, thinking, feeling being to all that and those who surround us. So I am not only responsible for myself, my family, those I love and care about but for everything and everyone who constitute each moment of my life. I am not responsible for them but I chose to respond to them. The moment I choose not to respond, that moment, to that person or that situation, I am dead. This responsiblity has no rules, no rights, no wrongs, no pre dictated and absolute paths of action, save to respond. It gives one the freedom to respond with any kind of action or to respond with inaction if that is what seems suitable.

So, if inaction can be responsibility, what is the point of responsibility really? This is the first question that popped into my head. Wouldn't it be that much easier for people to evade action especially now that they could claim to be doing it out of responsibility?

But the fact is the two things are entirely different. To not act out of lethargy or fear of the consequences is evasion, a nothingness where one seeks to cease to exist, to not matter to existence. To chose not to act out of full knowledge and to responsibility is another form of action. It is a considered, consciously made response. It is a choice of one set of consequences over another.

Taking on this kind of responsibility  makes one's capacity to act limitless. The minute one takes the limits off what one choses to respond to, the possibilities, choices and options are truly mind boggling. It is also the first step towards never feeling helpless. It can bring about a much greater intensity of feeling and at the same time give the emotional flexibility to act out of choice and not prejudiced reaction. It is that felling of control over each moment of one's life and circumstances, of being consciously alive and not just living. It is freedom from the need to blame and from having to take blame; of acting with the knowledge that one has not only the strength but the willingness to face the future, what ever it may be, with joy for whatever it is, it is still life. It is being able to play to win but being able to accept loss too. It is, I think, what the sportsman spirit was meant to mean.

As with acceptance, we were asked to practice this for twenty four hours. The experience of even little things like walking in an over-crowded Mumbai local station changed for me. I saw the anger and irritation dissipate quicker, easier to restore the happiness of feeling the winter sun on my toes (that, y the way, is one of the things that gives me the greatest joy. Feeling the sun on my toes... just my toes.); to stop reacting and start responding.

Am not going to say much more here. This one you have to try to see what it does to you. I can assure you though that freedom from the necessity to blame others is itself worth the trouble this one is going to take to begin with!

The next topic for my series is a bit of a mystery. Even to me. There are three to chose from and I cannot decide. Am going to spend the rest of my weekend thinking them over. And It'll be up sometime soon depending on how quickly I get my packing done.

PS: In writing that last paragraph, I've done the ego inflating thing of assuming that people are reading the entire series. Oh well! Never hurts to make oneself happy about something one is going to do anyway. :D

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