I often recall a small event of 1983 when I was posted as Collector of a district, where in an old Sanskrit college a function was being organised. The management of the institution had approached me before the function to be the Chief Guest. The institution was located at a distance from the district headquarters and I was not sure of being able to spare sufficient time for the programme which meant a long journey too. Moreover, I did not consider myself to be the appropriate Chief Guest for such an institution. However, on insistence from the management, I had agreed.
Soon the day of the function arrived. It was in the afternoon and I had some very important papers to see at the headquarters. I was in two minds about whether to go for the programme or not, knowing that a collector can always excuse himself on some pretext or the other. That temptation came to my mind also. But in the meanwhile, one member of the management had come to my office to accompany me to the institution, so I reluctantly went with him. In my mind I was not sure whether the time spent on the function would be worthwhile or not. At that time I had become a life member of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and its fortnightly journal used to reach me regularly. Usually, I read it while travelling, and on that day since the latest issue was with me, I went through the Bhavan’s journal. Apart from the text, this journal contains some sayings and thoughts from various sources written prominently in spare spaces. These thoughts are normally very inspiring. That day, soon after we started, I came across a thought which was like this: ‘Fortunate are those who keep their promise, be it good or sinful’. This single sentence removed all my hesitation and I became enthusiastic about the programme which was organized very well. We all felt very happy about it.
This incident made me contemplate. All of us face situations when we find it difficult to keep our word or promise. Those who are sensitive face a conflict in the mind, particularly when sufficient reasons do not exist for not keeping one’s word or promise. Quite often even such persons give untrue reasons for not keeping them, doing this mainly to satisfy themselves rather than others. Gradually, this becomes a habit; no wonder today we find many responsible persons whose word or promises have no meaning and who keep others in uncertainty even without sufficient justification. My contemplation in this regard has led me to the conclusion that for a sincere and truthful person, situations of such conflict hardly arise. Once we are firm in our resolve that we shall always keep our word or promise, events occur in such a manner that they are kept effortlessly. After the above-mentioned incident, I made it almost a sadhana to keep my word unless a situation arose when not keeping them became my duty. In that case, there has been no feeling of guilt or uneasiness. Gradually, a stage comes when we speak only those words which we are able to abide by effortlessly. Nature also creates circumstances accordingly. Personally, I have experienced many situations where I was surprised by the turn of events which made it possible to honour a commitment. The same situation then extends to our thoughts and we entertain only those thoughts which are actually converted into action.
I am not giving any specific events here because the intention is only to make a point. Here it is clarified that the point made is not as simple as it appears. The whole process requires a great deal of wisdom and maturity. To reach a stage when one’s words or thoughts are taken care of by nature, one has to undergo constant refinement and ripening. The first step is that words should be spoken after a great deal of thinking, and casual speaking should come to a stop. ‘Think before you speak and not vice versa’ has to be always kept in mind. It is better to keep silent if we are not sure of ourselves. One can always choose suitable words to deal with a particular situation in order to avoid further embarrassment.
Once we start doing so, our words have a weight of meaning and others take us seriously. The process starts from here. The second important step is that a promise or thought of action should arise as a result of duty, keeping in view the means available to us at a particular point of time. At times duty demands certain action on our part but means may not permit it. In such a situation, promises should be given accordingly. Thirdly, while giving promises one should be free from anger, envy, hatred or sentiments. Words spoken in such a state of mind normally create a difficult situation and disturb one’s peace of mind in the long run. Lastly, we must mean what we say and apply ourselves fully to keep our word. Nature helps us primarily through ourselves, and when we apply ourselves sincerely, conditions are so created that others also help. Once the above requirements are met, the process becomes natural and we are effortlessly able to keep our word. In fact, our will in that case becomes His will and we consider ourselves only the instruments. Even an apparently sinful act then becomes a part of our sadhana and leads to perfection.