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Swami Vivekananda: Secrets of Being Calm, Undisturbed!

There were many occasions in Vivekananda's life where he was extremely provoked by opponents. And there were several instances he was provoked even racially. Quite often for expounding ancient Indian thoughts in the West, too. There were so many attacks on him from various quarters, yet in spite of sometimes wanting to retaliate, Vivekananda always managed to somehow remain deeply undisturbed. He used to tell his brother monks that it is not right to disturb your inner being just because of an outward disturbance. Let the outward disturbance be external: don't let it become internal. And that in fact is the very secrets of balance in temperament and focus in action.

It is almost like enacting a part: each person is like an actor playing a part. But in the middle of your lines, you do not have to let them affect you internally. The dialogue remains a dialogue. It happens like a script. But the whole thing is that you are almost acting. And that is the basis of Indian mystical philosophy. The spirituality of Hinduism says that we are all actors in this divine play. And so too does somebody like Shakespeare say the same thing: ‘all the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players’. So it is meaningless to become inwardly frustrated, and disturbed in the space of your inner being. That is what self-control is: to be able to not get caught up by reactions.

Most people, when they are insulted by others, react really fast. But the person of consciousness is one who summons the greater divine energy within herself, and chooses not to be disturbed. In fact, even in the spiritual giant the Jain Tirthankara Mahavira's life, there were several instances where he was tortured and put to physical pain. But people were amazed how he was not disturbed by them! He just walked on. So too was the Buddha. In fact the Buddha used to say that it is up to us whether to accept an insult or not.

So remaining undisturbed is really a very fundamental teaching at a spiritual and at a material level. Make it your life's code. Do not forget this, and then you will notice that within the center of your being things really become integrated. You feel a sense of strength. And this is the strength of inner integration. It allows you to behave externally in a manner which is actually beneficial not only for you, but for others also. Eventually in a leader it is the sense of remaining inwardly undisturbed which is the most charismatic ability. The best leaders are they who can be so undisturbed, that people start having more and more confidence through their presence. So essentially it is a spiritual quality to imbibe. But the results of it are extremely beneficial at every level.

In Vedanta, being inwardly disturbed is described as a state of unconsciousness or a state of sleep. It is like dreams or nightmares disturbing you. But a person who is aware and alert can see through the dream, and realize that he is much more than them. This sense of realization is the heart of the art of the warrior: be it in Krishna's Bhagavad Gita giving advice to Arjun, or in the Japanese Buddhist Samurai code of Bushido. Be it in the Greek concept of Stoicism propounded by theorists who accompanied Alexander to India (and learnt from the ascetics there), or any other ‘warrior code’ in the world. It all begins with remaining extremely focused and undisturbed. And that also is the secret of Arjuna's being able to find the mark during the ‘swayamvara’ (competitive marriage ceremony) for Draupadi: an undisturbed focus on the task at hand.

In modern-day warfare you will find people like General Rommel being highly honored for this sort of inward attitude. It is the only way to get past anxiety. It is the only way to truly deal with crisis. Otherwise the disturbance will be so great that you will be constantly involved with circumstances, instead of being peaceful and at ease within yourselves. Feeling a certain peace and ease within yourself frees up your energy to be dynamic. It creates an aliveness and an abundance of your inner life, which leads to more and more infinite possibilities in your worldly life also.

So non-disturbance is born out of a sense of inner alertness. It is born out of a sense of being patient, being ready for the changing patterns of the world. Everything in the world changes constantly. But what is unchanging is that eternal dimension within you which is part of the cosmic consciousness. Allow that part to be so conscious, that no frustration can set in within yourself.

People become insecure and afraid by outer circumstances. But the true yogi as described by Krishna and the Bhagavad-Gita is simply one who can transcend the state of fear and insecurity by becoming inwardly calm. And throughout his life, Vivekanand cultivated this to such a degree that people used to feel almost astonished by his level of ability in dealing with extreme attacks upon his character or his value system. you see, Vivekananda had gathered the strength to not only travel throughout India under the most extreme circumstances, but also to go out West, which was in many ways not welcoming of Easterners (especially those who talked about religion). There have been instances when he lost his papers, when he had to sleep in a railroad freight yard, when he had to face hunger and cold. But even in the midst of all that, he was extremely undisturbed. There is a famous story about how he once encountered the Maharajah of Kapurthala who looked down upon him in Chicago. But Vivekananda’s attitude was to shrug this all off! To not let it disturb him. The only thing he used to get disturbed by was people's suffering. He used to identify very deeply with people’s suffering. But that was born out of a sense of compassion. And compassion is in itself a very strengthening virtue. So if it all you have to become sensitive, be sensitive to the needs and wants of others. Because that is really the hallmark of a great leader. In all other matters, be so undisturbed within yourself that you go on to more and more healthy states of mind and spirit. Because that is what essentially helps you become a greater success and a better leader in life.

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