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Monday, 10 February 2014

A Costly Mistake

Swami Shubha Vilas tells a compelling story about leadership & overconfidence from the Ramayana

A leader making a mistake does not imply lack of intelligence but a lack of foresight. But repeating the mistake definitely indicates a lack of intelligence.

This trait of leadership is brought out graphically through an enduring story from the timeless saga of Ramayana.

As a nonchalant passing comment it is mentioned in the Ramayana that Ayodhya’s soldiers who were skilled in all kinds of weapons and military tactics, were also experts in sonic archery; and yet they did not practice it.

If left unscrutinized, this statement would also remain lost like countless other statements in the scripture. But within this statement lies a deep lesson on leadership.

Dasaratha, in his youth, went on hunting expeditions where he loved using the powerful method of sonic archery as often as possible. Sonic archery referred to the art of shooting arrows without seeing the object but rather relying on hearing the objects movements. On one such hunting expedition, he heard a sound, much like the rumbling of a tiger or like an elephant drinking water from a river. He shot an eager arrow in that direction.

Acting without seeing the reality is a sign of overconfidence.
Little did he realize that the sound was that of a pot being dunked into the river; an eager-to-serve son was filling water for his thirsty parents. The expert archer’s arrow hit its mark followed by a blood-curdling, agonizing scream! It was the dying boy’s cry of despair and misery. Almost simultaneously, reverberating through the forest was Dasaratha’s scream; a scream emanating from sheer guilt!

Dasaratha’s pain was probably more excruciating than the pain the arrow caused the boy. The pain of guilt is the toughest to deal with.
Before him was a young boy writhing in pain, an arrow pierced right through his chest. The boy was the only child of his old, blind and invalid parents. As the boy began to inch closer to death, his pain became more excruciating at the thought of who would look after his parents after he was no more. No sooner than he told Dasaratha about his concern, he passed away.

When the old couple heard the rustle of the footsteps of a stranger and not their son’s approach them, inexplicable fear gripped them. When Dasaratha told the couple of his dreadful mistake, their wounded hearts let out a curse: Dasaratha, too, would die of the pain of separation from his son.  

One begs forgiveness for a mistake one commits. It is extremely important to think before making that mistake. Passion makes reasoning difficult. Dasaratha’s passion for hunting made him overconfident; before shooting the arrow, he did not use reason. Now that the consequences of his action were waiting for him, he resorted to reasoning. If we allow our passion to prevail over reasoning, we are in for a curse instead of a blessing.
A despondent Dasaratha returned to Ayodhya. He vowed that day never to practice sonic archery, lest it bring upon him another painful curse. He banned the practice of sonic archery in Ayodhya.
To lament for one’s mistake is important, but far more important is to learn from that mistake. To make mistakes does not imply lack of intelligence but a lack of foresight. Not repeating mistakes is a sign of intelligence.

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