When Alexander came to Bharat, he came across a naked sanyasi – Dandamis of Takshashila. Alexander wanted Dandamis to accompany him, but he refused. Riches did not move this sanyasi, nor did the fear of death. Alexander was awe-struck and had to accept defeat. At the core of Bharatiya philosophy are the words of Dandamis, that he was not a slave to either wealth or death and that he had mastered anger too.
When our Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with the people in Westminster’s iconic Central Hall, he was asked by Prasoon Joshi about his being a Fakir. It is well known that Modiji never used his position to grant favours to any member of his family. He is also known to be frugal in his food habits. The fact that he chose to lead a life singly, to devote himself to working for the nation alone is also well-known (and even criticised).
In a complete resonance with Bharatiya philosophy, Modi mentioned very clearly that he was not attracted to wealth accumulation for himself. In fact, he mentioned that he had seen to it that the various gifts that he had received over the years of his occupying the Chief Minister’s office in Gujarat, were auctioned. The proceeds of the sale of these gifts, along with donations received, totalled to about Rs100 crore and this amount was in a trust fund meant to help poor girl students receive the education. Also, the entire amount of his savings from his salary as the CM went towards a trust, earnings from which would be used to educate the children of the drivers and peons of the Gujarat Sachivalaya.
He also mentioned that he would be happiest if he were to die wearing his boots on. He had no apprehensions of death. In a complete philosophical style, liberally doused with humour, he mentioned that what motivates him are the 1-2 kilos of criticism that he receives every day. While most people would react angrily to criticism, especially personally aimed or unjust criticism, he just laughed it off. It is only a detached person who can actually do that. Sant Kabir in his dohas has said:
Nindak Niyare Rakhiye, Angan Kuti Chhawai;
Binu Pani Bin Sabuna, Nirmal Kare Swabhav.
Meaning – Keep your critics close to you; give them shelter in your courtyard.
(Because) Without soap and water, they cleanse your nature.
(You get to know your faults if someone criticizes you. Listen to the criticism without annoyance. He helps you clean your own self of its faults.)
His points on how to live life are a lesson in itself –
- Have a positive outlook, a peaceful mind (Mann ki avastha).
- Don’t ever become a burden on someone – keep good health.
- For this, be disciplined in your life. One can get good genes from one’s parents, but to remain healthy, one must be fit always.
- Neeyam se Jeevan Jiyo – Have moderation in everything you do.
- Detachment is strength – viewing life with a detached mind, helps one remain strong mentally and physically.
The last verse in the Arthshastra of Chanakya says, “In the happiness of his people, lies the happiness of a king.” During the course of his conversation, PM Modi said that he did not need to learn about struggles and poverty from any book – he has lived it himself. He was the first PM to take on the work of freeing Bharat from open defecation and freeing the kitchens of Bharat from wood-based ‘chulhas’, at such a fast pace.
Reducing the prices of stents, medicines, health insurance – all work towards improving the quality of life. The only one who has seen the struggles of the poor women at close quarters can empathise so much with them. Building roads to reach every nook and corner of the country and bringing electricity to every village is another landmark achievement of PM Modi and his team. What is striking is the pace of completion of these relatively ‘invisible’ jobs which bring happiness to people. The toilets, cheap medicines and gas cylinders may not add to the economic growth visibly, but they do add to the happiness index.
Acceptance of change can come only with maturity – Instead of crying about technology intruding into our everyday life, PM Modi mentioned how he is using that very technology to bring in change into society. Digital Education, Government E-Marketplace (GEM), Optical Fibre Network in villages all are changing society and for the better.
Who else other than a philosopher can talk about expecting people do their bit for improving their own lot and the nation, instead of waiting for a larger than life figure (the Government) do it all for them? ‘God helps those who helps themselves’ is something that we learn – here’s a man who says that he will work towards developing an eco-system to help the poor and give them ample opportunities, but the poor will have to take advantage of these facilities and avail of these opportunities (eg. Mudra Yojna) to improve their lot. He made a telling statement when he said that in the past, dependence on the Government increased to such an extent that the society weakened (durbal). He repeatedly mentioned about making Vikasa Jan Andolan.
His talk on teaching sons to be good to women, youngsters having qualities of Umang, Utsah & Apeksha (enthusiasm & expectations), the need to be a student for life, need to work in public life with the motto, ‘Sarva Jan Hitaya, Sarva Jan Sukhaya’, respect towards our spiritual giants of Bharat – all were aimed at connecting the heart, mind and soul. It was not the talk of a statesman, it was the talk of a philosopher who cares for future generations.
But what really made me appreciate him the most was his statement, “Beej khap jaata hai Vat Vruksh banne keliye” ie. the seed has to lose its identity if it wants to become a tree. Similarly, Modi the individual has to forget himself if he has to work as the Prime Minister of the nation. As the PM, there can be no personal likes or dislikes. He has to only think from the nation’s viewpoint. Apart from our President APJ Abdul Kalam, I have hardly heard similar words from other post-independence politicians of our country. His declaration of his goal to make India Shining shows his commitment to the nation.