||Aum Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
||Aum Namo Narayanaya||
I really can’t figure it out now... but 'back in the day' when I was growing up, most things we did was pursuant with the seasons. Like clockwork there would be a seamless transition with pretty much everything... from clothes, food and even activities that would boisterously advertise the period we were in. Like around this time, we would be gearing up for the French Open Tennis followed hot-on-the-heels by the Wimbledon Championships. The guava and mango trees would be abandoned for the succulent mandarins, nectarines and the butter soft avocadoes that used to burden the arthritic branches of the aged trees. Adorned with fleece jerseys, socks and beanies; nursing a chesty cough and congested nose - we would take delight in tearing apart an orange bursting with juice that would intently trickle down our chapped lips. The winter sounds warm, fuzzy and cosy but also elaborates some idiosyncrasies - like alighting from bed in the grating cold at the rooster’s hour to watch the start of a road race.
|Comrades Marathon- Google images|
As South Africans, we take pride in this event though - it is regarded as the "ultimate human race" and attracts thousands of people, both locally and internationally, to test their entire being between two cities: Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
This event was a must watch for many of us! It gripped our attention as we applauded the determination, strength, courage and camaraderie of the participants. As much as winning the race may be the objective of some competitive entrants... for the majority of runners... it is a test of passion, the human spirit and the ultimate feeling of crossing the finish line - not alone... but by inspiring, carrying and lifting others along the way. I think it is in this spirit that the race continues today, true to the ideology of the founder Vic Clapham who decided on the event as a living memoriam to the heroes of the war who showed much camaraderie despite suffering pain, agony and death in the searing heat on the parched eastern savannah of Africa. Today, in its 88th year, all roads led to Maritzburg as it’s locally known, to celebrate and appreciate the conquest of human frailties against all odds.
There is indeed a great spiritual lesson that can be derived from this ultimate human experience which dovetails into the ethos of Vedanta and especially the practical Vedanta philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. Whilst thinking of this marathon, I took up a deeper analysis of one of Swami Vivekananda’s sayings which may have sparked some sort of controversy by the traditionalists. However in this time of the widely read and aspiring spiritual seekers, Swamiji's thoughts planted during His time ripen as revelations for the emancipation of the shackled joy and happiness.
Swamiji without any hesitation proclaimed: "You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through study of Gita".
Yes! Apart from the fitness and physical stamina that is attained through practice and playing of football, some fundamental life skills are attained. To underpin my thought, please read now a commentary from a football match.
"Pillay bursts down the right flank but is brought down by Govender mid-flight. Moodley stands over the free-kick. Awesome ball in from Moodley - right in the mixer - and Naidoo meets it with a header that finds the back of the net."
The stats shall show that Naidoo scored the goal which took the team to the finals, but as a player each one realises that only through teamwork and the effort of others, Naidoo had the opportunity to score the goal. Without the labour force there can be no industrialist; without the voting citizen there can be no President; and without the army there can be no King. Like how the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas etc by its own nature contributes to the wellness of the body... like that, in life we must realise that the welfare of each and every jiva shall bring about a healthy society. There cannot be real progress when but a few progress at the expense of others. There will come a time when such a system will collapse.
Our development and progress must be invested in the welfare of others. We must strive to succeed and prosper whilst ensuring that we raise the lives of others. It is only then that we can think of such ideals like moksha and liberation. That is what Swamiji meant when He said: "You are nearer to Heaven through football".
"Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making, assimilation of ideas", He said. It is the practical use of the information that is important. Going to satsang every week and saying that you read the Gita is of no use if you cannot put one idea into practice or if that idea cannot deliver peace and improvement in one's life. Swamiji also commented: "The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion – is it worth the name?"
Taking cognisance that we come from the same source and we are all after the same goal, as declared by Bhagwan Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, that "all creation emanates from Him", we can perspicuously call ourselves comrades in the struggle for absolute eternal bliss. And like how liberation movements worked and fought together as a single organism against the oppressive forces, we too must help each other and work with each other to attain love, peace and moksha.
May we be inspired by such events like the Comrades Marathon to bring about victory for all in the Marathon of Life, is my sincere prayer.
With love and prayers always