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 utilise 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.