Rakesh K Mittal IAS

Sri Rakesh Kumar Mittal IAS (Retd.) had been an administrative officer in Uttar Pradesh state cadre for about 35 years. He is a spiritual man with high moral values and a selfless heart. He has founded 'Kabir Peace Mission'. He has also written several books on positive thinking.

When You Grow Wise

In November 1993, I was appointed as a Central Observer of the Election Commission for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections. Just before leaving for my first visit to the state, I developed a severe pain in my wisdom tooth. I consulted a senior dentist who advised immediate extraction of the tooth and called me the next day. I was not prepared for this because I didn’t want to lose the tooth so early. Though I had crossed 44, my teeth had been in a good condition. So I consulted another dentist friend who advised me to wait for some time more as the pain could be managed with the help of medicines. Somehow the election duty was carried out without much difficulty.The problem became acute once again next year and this time again, the dentist advised extraction of the wisdom tooth. He told me that there was no function of wisdom teeth after a certain age and that I need not be unduly concerned about losing one of them. I wanted to know the reason for these teeth being called wisdom teeth. He told me that these teeth grow after crossing the teens, i.e., in the early twenties and generally have to be removed in the forties. This information was enough for me to contemplate over the matter and I arrived at certain conclusions which I am going to share here. Human Life has always been divided in four phases. In our scriptures these phases are called ‘Brahmacharya’, ‘Grastha’, ‘Van Prastha’ and ‘Sanyasa’, respectively. Assuming an ideal lifespan of 100 years each phase comes to about 25 years. However, in real life, a good lifespan may be taken as about 80 years.  So each phase of life is of about 20 years. The first phase of life, ‘Brahmacharya’, is a phase of restraint and learning. Those who wish to acquire anything in life have to remain disciplined and work hard during this period. The full meaning of life is hardly understood in this period. In a way it is good also. If life is understood in totality during this period, perhaps the urge to learn and acquire knowledge would be lost. Acquisition of mundane knowledge during this period is essential to successfully live the subsequent phases of life. This phase is like the running of an aeroplane on the ground before take-off. If sufficient speed is not acquired on the runway, the plane cannot take off and at times may meet with an accident.
The second phase of life is the most difficult one and can be compared to the take-off of an aeroplane. During this phase, one has to rise above the ground and achieve worldly success.  Maximum energy is consumed during this period and the knowledge acquired during the first phase of life is to be applied. One comes across a variety of experiences and we gain maturity and wisdom as a result of these interactions. While in the first phase of our life, one only acquires knowledge and remains on ground, in the second phase one acquires wisdom and gains height. That is why the wisdom teeth grow only in the early twenties. Their appearance thus indicates that the time for acquiring wisdom has come. The acquisition of wisdom has also to come to an end. A period of 20-25 years in the second phase of life should be sufficient for a person to understand life fully and to acquire wisdom. It is like acquiring full height by an aeroplane during a flight. After acquiring this height, there is no need of going higher and the acquired height should be enjoyed. In human life this stage should reach at the age of 40-45 years and one should be able to grow fully wise by this time. At this stage, there is no need of wisdom teeth and that is why they are no more required. I feel that this could be the reason behind these teeth being called wisdom teeth.
Having grown wise, one enters the third phase of life. For a truly wise person life should become smooth in this phase and he should be able to enjoy it like an aeroplane journey in the third stage.  There is no need of any imposed restrictions in this phase and the gains of life are to be shared. A wise person should share his acquisitions including wisdom for his inner expansion as the outer expansion is no more required. If one does not share, in all probability he is heading for a miserable fourth phase of life.
The fourth phase of life is like the landing of an aeroplane. In this phase the acquired height is to be lost in order to land safely. If it is not done, a crash is inevitable. It means that a time comes in life when even wisdom has to be transcended. After all, in this cycle of birth and death, there are others in the queue and one should voluntarily make way for them. If one does not do so, he will either be pushed or crushed. A truly wise person should avoid this situation. That is why this phase of life is called ‘Sanyasa’ ashrarn. One has to give up everything for a happy end. Thus the four phases of life are the phases of acquiring knowledge, acquiring wisdom, sharing wisdom and transcending wisdom. 

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 19-10-2017

Most Worthy Son

I came in contact with my spiritual master in the year 1991 in Delhi. With him were two young disciples who were married to each other. Both of them were highly qualified and were in the process of taking full sanyasa. The husband was an Assistant Professor at IIT Kharagpur while the lady used to teach at the Kolkata University. In fact, their association with Swamiji was a great assurance for me which reinforced my faith in him. In due course, both of them took full sanyasa and devoted themselves to spiritual service of the society. The younger Swami was named Swami Nirvisheshananda, nicknamed as Naya Swamiji. His parents lived in the steel town of Jamshedpur where his father was an engineer. After retirement he had settled down there only. A few years later, I got posted at Kolkata as Development Commissioner, and in that capacity, I visited Jamshedpur a few times.
On one of these visits, I was keen to meet Swamiji. My curiosity was to know the impact of Naya Swamiji’s sanyasa on his father. Normally it is believed or assumed that if a young son turns to sanyasa and that too after marriage, it must be a kind of shock for the parents. With this background, I visited Naya Swamiji’s home at Jamshedpur. His father had a very pleasing personality and received me very affectionately. Naya Swamiji’s mother was also there. After initial pleasantries and some professional discussions, I came to the question I had in mind. When I asked as to how he responded to the sanyasa of one of his sons, who had settled so well in life, he had no hesitation in saying that he was proud of him. He also added that he considered him to be the most worthy son. While his other sons had brought only money and fame to him, this son of his brought him true glory and salvation. I was highly influenced by his feelings and realised the true impact of spiritual life.
India is a country which has countless spiritual seekers. In them lies the true greatness and glory of this country. Science has to rediscover this dimension of human personality if its gains are to be deployed for human welfare in the true sense. The ultimate goal of human life, which is peace and happiness, is possible only when science and spirituality play a complementary role in our life.

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 04-10-2017

Diving in the World Ocean

On April 1995, I had a
chance to visit the Mumbai High oil drilling site, about 200 km away from the seashore. It takes almost an hour to reach there by a helicopter. From the engineering point of view, the whole operation is amazing. The fixation of the drilling rigs and platforms is an engineering feat. The foundations of these structures are very deep in order to keep them stable. I met some engineers who had worked there in the initial days of construction and they narrated their experiences with great pride, expressing the thrill of achievement. They also told me that the foundation construction of these structures was the most difficult stage and to carry out this task, expert divers were called from other countries.

I was told that deep-sea diving is a difficult job and a good amount of training was required for it. As the pressure of water increases proportionately to the depths of the sea, a diver has to take precautionary measures to withstand the stress. I was told that in earlier days, the training process took a long time as the divers were subjected to gradually increasing pressure before they could venture deep into the sea. Now, there are special equipments which create sea conditions
artificially and the process of training is expedited. However, the principle of training remains the same, which is to create enough internal resistance or pressure to withstand the external pressure. If the diver does not do this, his
body could collapse. I have drawn some very interesting inferences from this fact.

The world we live in is also like a sea. The deeper we go into it the greater are the disturbing forces we have to face. If we are not trained or used to bear these pressures, we collapse and fail to achieve the goal of our existence. We forget the nature of the world and the fact that there is no use blaming external circumstances. We should, on the other hand, train ourselves to withstand the pressures of the world. For this, we have to develop enough internal strength so that the two neutralize each other and we are able to dive into this worldly sea like professional divers.

In real life it means that one’s development should be appropriately integrated. The bigger is the external growth the
greater is the need for internal growth too. That is why people with high positions, greater riches, greater fame, or power should be much more balanced than ordinary persons. If they are not so, the outer trappings may become the cause
of their disaster. A balanced growth of personality makes us good divers, plunging confidently into this worldly sea.
The world will then cease to be a source of danger or trouble for us and we can enjoy living in it, as well as performing  our duties well.

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 18-09-2017

The Mathematics of Life

I remember an incident in early 1979 when I was posted as Additional District Magistrate at Meerut. Once the Commissioner of
the Division visited the district and I accompanied him on his tour. The visit went off very well and he was quite happy with the work done. In the evening, we were returning in the same car on our way to Meerut. The Commissioner was a very good man and the success of the tour gave me some courage to speak frankly during the journey. At that time I was a young officer with only three years of service and was unaware of many realities of public administration. However, I was aware of the interference of vested interests in administration, as a result of which most officers were not able to work fearlessly.  So I asked him certain questions about this aspect, curious to know whether it was possible for an honest and sincere civil servant to work fearlessly despite outside pressure. The answer was, naturally, not that simple but he said that though it was definitely possible to work fearlessly it required a lot of wisdom and other virtues like ability and perceptiveness, for an honest and sincere civil servant to reach that stage. The matter ended there but the question occupied my mind for a long time.

As far as I can introspect, I have always tried to work sincerely and honestly. I was not troubled by people who had vested
interests, as most of the time I could get my way through them. Having completed over thirty five years of service and reaching the age when one should acquire enough wisdom to look at life in its true perspective, I feel that life is like mathematics and the problems of life are similar to the problems of mathematics. If the fundamentals of life are understood, then life’s problems can also be faced easily. In that case, life becomes a pleasure and its difficult problems only add to the pleasure of living. In brief, I would say that life is a wonderful opportunity for elevation and it should not be wasted on mundane affairs only, just as the purpose of mathematics is not merely to pass the examination but to understand and apply its principles in life.

The purpose of life should be understood in its true sense and it should be taken as an opportunity for achieving its goal.
With that clarity in the mind, the difficulties attached to life become very small and add to the pleasure of living. Such people score high in the mathematics of life without much difficulty. In worldly terms, there may be more prosperous persons around them but when it comes to the examination of life, it is they who secure the highest marks. And all this happens effortlessly. Let us first accept the simile of life with mathematics and feel the urge to understand its fundamentals. Once we have the urge, we will find the way and help will come from unexpected sources. No doubt, a sustained effort is required on our part, but once the process of understanding is over, life becomes scoring as well as enjoyable, like the subject of mathematics. We can then easily aim to score cent per cent marks, no matter how difficult the paper is.

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 06-09-2017

False Ceiling

I served as Managing Director of the UP Handloom Corporation during the year 1987-88. At that time, this job was considered to be important as well as glamorous. The turnover of the organisation was almost one hundred crores and it had a large number of showrooms all over the country.  It was quite a challenging and interesting job to run them efficiently. Every year, a good number of showrooms were renovated and it involved a huge expenditure. One of the expensive items in the renovation was the ‘False Ceiling’.  This term always amused me and I often wondered why such a beautiful piece of work was called ‘False’.

Once I inspected a showroom during its renovation when the work on the false ceiling was in progress. I could, therefore, see the inside of the false ceiling and I found it in bad shape. The wiring, pipe-fittings, ducting, etc., were done badly, probably in the knowledge that they would not be visible after the false ceiling was fitted. The quality of wiring was also poor, which I learned, was done deliberately in order to increase the frequency of repairs. While I took the necessary steps to correct the situation in the process, I also understood the significance of the word ‘false’.

Subsequently, I held many important posts which took me around the country and abroad frequently. I like meeting people and have had an interaction with a large cross-section with widely varying backgrounds. I can modestly claim that I have been able to understand human nature to a great extent and do not get upset easily when someone hurts me or behaves in an unexpected manner. I have found a large number of people who are apparently very well-behaved and project themselves as our
well-wishers, while the reality is different. Initially, such a situation used to upset me, but now it is no more so.
The incident about the false ceiling also helped me greatly to understand this aspect of human nature. Most people try to hide their faults with false behaviour and a disguised appearance. The reality is known only when we see them closely. Unfortunately, in today’s fast world, such opportunities are rare and whenever one tries to do so, the result is a clash or conflict. The only option, therefore, is to watch oneself closely and remove those faults, which we dislike in others.

There is a need to behave well and decently, a desirable quality of a good human being. Good behaviour becomes undesirable only when it is false, but sincerity and genuine goodness will reap rich dividends not only for oneself but for others too.
Unfortunately, most of us feel that it is more important to appear nice than to be really nice. It may be true for a short while but it is not so when life is seen in totality. Sooner or later, the false appearance and poor contents inside are exposed and there is no option left but to discard the object in totality. Someone has rightly said, ‘It is good to be important but it is more important to be good’. If we believe in this, there would be no need for any
‘False Ceiling.

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 31-08-2017

Being Like the Sea

Once I stayed in Madras for about a week with my family. We stayed in a guest house located on a beach near the sea, which added to the charm and pleasure of staying there. We had very pleasant morning walks along the mighty, surging sea, and its vastness touched our hearts. During our stay, I contemplated deeply on the nature of the sea and how it helps us to develop our own personality.

The first great quality of the sea is its vastness. It is so vast that the other shore of the sea is never seen by an ordinary person. We require magnitude in our personality too. Our vision should enlarge with our physical growth so that our personality becomes pleasant. An ordinary person may not think beyond himself, his family or a close social circle. Such vision needs further expansion and one should ultimately think of the whole creation. With such a vast vision, we start
loving the whole creation of God and there is no room for lower tendencies like hatred, anger and jealousy.

The second quality of the sea is its depth. The vastness of the sea would be meaningless without its depth for this quality enables the sea to gain stability. Similarly, for the true development of our personality vast mundane knowledge is not sufficient as it may not give depth to our personality. This depth is acquired by developing wisdom which gives stability to our personality.

The third quality to be learnt from the sea is ‘absorption’. It absorbs whatever is merged into it. All mighty rivers ultimately merge into the sea and it accepts all of them. Not only this, these rivers carry away with them all the filth created by human beings. The sea accepts that too. In turn it returns pure rain-water, retaining all the dirty water received by it. The sea water itself remains saltish though it is the ultimate source of all sweet water. This amounts to returning goodness in exchange for evil, a quality which should be part of the personality also, giving us mercy, kindness and compassion.

The last quality is 'stability' which can also be learnt from the sea. The sea level remains stable though universal forces cause some ups and downs in it periodically. That is why the Mean Sea Level is a standard benchmark and does not change with time.  Similarly, our mental variations as a result of interaction with the world should also be to the minimum and the effort should be to maintain it at the same level. This little variation of sea level only indicates that as long as we live in the world, absolute calmness may not be possible. That state can be achieved only when we firmly control our reactions and responses, both mentally and physically. However, while living in the world, stability can be maintained and the variation can be reduced to the minimum. This is the quality which brings serenity to our personality.

Thus four qualities of the sea, namely,vastness, depth, absorption and stability are to be adopted in our personality.
If we can do so, we may be as useful for the society as the sea is to the entire creation on the earth.

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 26-08-2017

Do It With Calm

When I was the Principal Secretary of an important public utility department, I had a secretary who was a very honest and sincere officer. We both joined the department almost simultaneously, he being only few days senior to me. The department was known for corruption and inefficiency, but the acuteness was a secret for us till we joined the department. My younger friend discovered it soon and was baffled.
Few days after I joined, he gave me a call one evening asking if he could meet me immediately. Incidentally, I was also relatively free and had no visitor or officials around. So I asked him to come immediately so that we could talk at ease. His body language revealed discomfort and he appeared to be in a state of confusion. Going by his sincerity and reputation, it was an unusual sight and I also became curious. Then he told me about a call which he had received a few hours earlier from a vendor who used to supply posters for a certain health programme. The caller sought instruction from him with regard to his commission, which fell due on account of the last campaign, held soon after he had joined. The amount was about three lakh rupees and the manner and place of payment had also been discussed. This was a situation he had never come across before and was confused about his response to such a strange call. He appeared to be quite angry at the vendor and wanted to take strong action against him. He sought my advice in this regard. Apart from the real problem which would be dealt with separately, my immediate concern was his agony. Here was a person who was honest and sincere but was suffering on account of the misdeeds of others. This was the last thing I wanted for him.
With a touch of humour, I then told him that there were only two options before him. Either he calmly accepted the money or calmly refused it. Instead, he was choosing a third option, that of refusing the vendor with anger. In this way, he was going to be a double sufferer. He got my point and felt somewhat relaxed. Then we discussed the matter from the administrative point of view. I advised him to understand the whole process and take necessary steps to stop the malpractice for all times to come. I also assured him my full cooperation.
He took my advice seriously and soon worked out a plan, which could address the problem at its root. In the very next campaign, there was a saving of about forty percent, much more than the cut that was being offered to him. Incidentally, the vendor also appreciated his initiative as this removed his dilemma too. This was made possible only because the whole chain of events was carried out with a calm frame of mind.

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 14-08-2017

Joy of Ignorance

Life is a cycle of joys and sorrows. Most of us are carried away by them and feel happy or unhappy accordingly. Our seers have contemplated a lot on this subject and have advised us to rise above both of them. They say that there is no absoluteness about them and both are fleeting moments of life. In other words, joy and sorrow are only external happenings and affect us only when we come to know of such happenings. If we are ignorant about them, they create no effect on us. Also, the same event creates a different feeling in different persons. It depends upon our relationship with the event at that point of time. If they were absolute, they would evoke same feelings in all of us even if we didn’t know about them. In addition, the impact of any event, good or bad, fades with time and we remain affected neither by a good event nor by a bad event in due course of time.
I am narrating a personal experience here to support the above. It was in May, 1983, when I was posted as District Magistrate in Basti. At that time, one of my close friends was posted as District Magistrate in Almora (at that time Uttarakhand was a part of UP). He invited us to visit Almora, which is one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. Those days, my father-in-law, who was in Delhi, was not well and there was a risk to his life. However, after being assured that there was no immediate danger, I decided to undertake the trip with my family. My friend had made good arrangements for our stay and travel within the district.
There were several places worth visiting including Ranikhet, known as the ‘Queen of Hills’. Overall, we enjoyed our stay and had a nice time. At that time, communication by telephone was not very advanced. Hill districts, in particular, had poor services and it was very difficult to get in touch even with Delhi. As a result, we had no information about the condition of my father-in-law. As we were returning to Basti from Almora, we stopped briefly at Lucknow, and I contacted Delhi from there. I learnt that my father-in-law had passed away two days back and by that time he had also been cremated. This came as a great shock to us and I, with my wife, travelled to Delhi the same evening and observed the mourning period there.
While all this was being done, the philosophical thoughts about our joy at Almora and sorrow after learning about the death kept occupying my mind. This contemplation made me believe that our joy is nothing but our ignorance and by the same logic, our sorrow is equally our ignorance. A wise person neither gets elated with joy nor gets depressed by sorrow. Since then, I have been trying to imbibe this wisdom.

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 07-08-2017

Positive Revenge

Akbar was the greatest Mughal emperor and ruled over India during the sixteenth century (1556-1605).  He is known for his liberal approach towards religion and for his competence in administration.  He had a team of nine competent ministers called Navaratnas (Nine Jewels), who looked after various departments of his administration. One of these Navaratnas was Raja Birbal, a very interesting personality. In addition to helping the emperor in administrative matters, he also entertained him by his intelligence and wit.  The emperor would often test the
intelligence of his minister by asking him some seemingly strange questions which were always answered cleverly.

Once Akbar drew a straight line on a piece of paper and asked Birbal to shorten it without erasing any part of it. Birbal contemplated for a minute and then drew a longer line by its side.  The emperor and everyone in the court were greatly pleased and amused to see how Birbal had tackled the problem. I have viewed this incident with philosophical interest and have drawn an important lesson from it. The approach adopted by Birbal indicates a very positive approach. In real life we come across many situations which have to be overcome without hurting anyone, including ourselves. Someone may have insulted us or hurt us, or some problem may be troubling us. A common man’s approach may be either to suffer silently or to react destructively. This helps no one, least of all the person himself. When we think of destroying someone, we create negative impulses and in the process, harm ourselves.

The same situation can be dealt with in just the opposite manner. Instead of spending our energy in destruction, we may utilize it in construction. By adopting this approach, we raise ourselves above the person or the situation which has been troubling us. This automatically dwarfs them and in the process makes us bigger. From a worldly point of view, this may be called revenge on the person or the situation which troubled us.

Instances abound of greatness being the result when a person or situation has hurt someone. Gandhiji had to face humiliation from time to time and that made him more determined to secure Independence. Vivekananda passed through a phase of stark poverty and that made him so rich spiritually that he spread the message all over the world, calling upon people to eradicate poverty in order to be truly religious. Jamshedji Tata found no decent place in Mumbai to stay in when he decided to build the Taj Mahal Hotel there. Raja Ram Mohan Roy took a vow to fight against the ‘Sati’ system when he saw his sister-in-law being forced to burn in the funeral pyre of her husband.  After facing humiliation and destruction in the Second World War, the Japanese constructed a new nation with
greater determination and surpassed even the nations which caused them such humiliation and destruction. All these examples show that people did not surrender or act in a violent manner when a person or situation upset them. They overcome them constructively and in the process raised themselves above the person and the situation.

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 29-07-2017

Refuse to Dislike

Once I went on an official tour to Assam and Meghalaya. In Shillong my colleague and I had some spare time and so we decided to drive up to Cherrapunji. The drive was very beautiful and we came across some rare natural beauty on the way. We ate our packed lunch on the way, sitting on a parapet wall on the roadside. The sight of the hillock on the opposite side was superb. So much so that despite being a steel man, I started thinking how beautiful the earth would have been without any steel. Anyway it was a momentary thought and after sometime we drove further. At Cherrapunji we sat in a small restaurant, looking at the surroundings and tasting some local sweets. There we met a person who must have been in his fifties.

By his looks and expression, he appeared to be an educated man hailing from North India. Perhaps he was the owner of or a frequent visitor to the restaurant. When asked he told us that he was from Punjab. One of our colleagues asked him how he had decided to settle down in Cherrapunji and how he liked the place. He did not like being asked all these questions saying these were personal matters and required a long time to explain. However, he told that he had retired from the BSF and most of his family members were settled in Canada. Since he did not like going there, he decided to stay back at Cherrapunji. He also said that he did not dislike anything except dishonesty and fraud. Though he did not hold a very good opinion about the locals, on the whole he liked the place. This attitude of the man impressed me a lot. Obviously the matter was not so simple. He must have had deep wounds within him. Yet he had adopted a positive approach to life by refusing to dislike his environment. While driving back to Shillong we talked about him and we all appreciated his attitude.

The whole thing set me thinking that there was a great lesson to be learnt from him. I, myself, believe in the same approach to life. When I decided to come to Calcutta, many friends and well-wishers asked me whether I liked the place. My answer had always been that I had never thought of disliking the place. And believe me I meant it too. I do not mean to say that there is nothing to dislike in Calcutta. In fact, there is plenty but what is the point in dwelling upon them? One can always identify so many likable things in any given situation and need not pay attention to others. If one can adopt this approach to life, life becomes much more beautiful. To be fair in my assessment of the person we met at Cherrapunji, I would say that though he was apparently happy, there appeared to be some bitterness within him. That is why he did not like being asked about his personal life. This dislike was against his claim that he did not dislike anything. He also said that he did not like dishonesty and fraud. While he was correct from a worldly point of view, going a little deeper would reveal that even this dislike is negative. While things like dishonesty, fraud, ugliness, etc., are to be opposed, there is no point in disliking them. The thought of disliking adversely affects us and creates disharmony.

This way we become the victim for no fault of ours. It is like saying, ‘hate the sin, not the sinner.’ If we follow this advice, peace will never be lost. There is one more way of looking at things. The whole creation of God consists of opposites. In fact, without opposites, there will be no existence. For example, we can talk of the good only so long the bad also exists. Similarly, there is no meaning of pleasure without pain. This logic can also be extended to all other things. Beauty has to co-exist with ugliness. Piousness is to coexist with wickedness. Honesty is to co-exist with dishonesty, so on and so forth. If we accept this fact of life, we have no reason to dislike anything. All things have to be accepted as they are. The only freedom we have is to play our own role in the best possible way in given circumstances. Whatever way we approach, there is no point in our disliking a situation and by refusing to dislike it we can turn every situation into something we like.

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 17-07-2017