Once upon a time, animals in forest were in jocular mood; they set up a race between a hare and a tortoise. On the day of the race, both the hare and the tortoise took off from the starting point. Once far ahead, the hare became complacent and decided to take a nap. Upon waking up, he raced to the finishing line, only to find the tortoise already there. Stung by this unexpected defeat, he challenged the tortoise to race one more time and this time he won quite easily.
The tortoise was not the one to give up either, inspite of his obvious handicap of being slow. He challenged the hare to race on a route of his (tortoise’s) choice. The hare, overconfident of his speed, did not bother to check the chosen route. During the race, the hare came across a river and was stymied, while the tortoise merrily carried on.
This made up story, which is an improvement over the well-known similar story, has many messages for all of us. When we are born, we bring seven attributes, either negative and positive, with us. Beginning with the parents, one can be blessed with good ones and also not so caring ones. One could be born in a rich country, like the US or in a poor country, like Sudan. One could be born in opulence or in poverty. One could be good looking or may be ugly. One could be either intelligent or dumb. One could be afflicted by unexhausted bad “karmas”, causing diseases, lack of strength, etc. or could be blessed with good “karmas”, giving good health and strength.
Should one give up and accept the handicaps in life, such as lack of good looks, as final or do something about it ? What did the tortoise in the story do ? He chose a route in which he was superior. Unknown to many of us, each one of us is blessed with something unique quality. No person can possibly have all the good qualities or all the bad ones either. We need to identify our unique strengths and develop them. We can even take help of others, like our teachers to know ourselves better.
I, loved sports and was a good player but could not go beyond the club level because there was lack of natural talent to succeed at the highest level. Not disheartened, I looked further and discovered the talent for writing and public speaking. Therefore, I began to pay more attention to this aspect of my personality and learnt Sanskrit, playing harmonium, singing, writing and English. Age was no bar and realized that these came naturally to me.
The world is like a very big garden; we can choose to pick what suits us. Our birth and previous “karmas” are the starting points. One need not lament about any of our apparent shortcomings, but should start from these resolutely ; we must not lose in our minds. Sure, we cannot compete with others in what are not our strong points, but there are unlimited fields for us to excel in. If one has determination and patience, nothing is impossible.
For example, looks can be improved by developing an aura made up of goodness, intelligence, happiness. Intelligence can be improved by acquiring knowledge and practising it. The handicaps of inferior parents and backward place of birth can be negated by individual efforts, as is routinely being done by millions all over the world. Bodily strength can be acquired by sound health, which is a result of good habits.
Bad “karmas” can be countered by penance, thus removing the cause for punishment. Why will God wish to punish an already reformed person? On the other hand, God is known to help those who help themselves. It is upto us as to what we make of our lives ; we are never condemned. Never give up in life ? One can learn from the story of the tortoise and the hare.