"Until you have lost your reputation, you never realise what a burden it was or what freedom really is."
~ Margaret Mitchell
My uncle Manohar Singh ji taught me, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are, and your reputation is merely what others think you are."
Our reputation is what helps us acquire things, wealth, associates and power. However reputation is cultivated, so its not always genuine. Our social standing, and all that is external to us is manifested in our reputation.
All that we really are, is our character which lies within us, its the genuine thing. However our character, takes very long to be noticed by others if at all.
Success brings wealth and influence. It usually attracts people to us, many want to know us. In success we are rarely alone, but we are often lonely. However no loneliness is greater than when we happen to lose our wealth and our reputation, for then, no one wants to know us.
Not long ago, I was a very successful industrialist. I had wealth and reputation. Most things that come with success, I had in abundance. However I was too busy with chasing success to bother about understanding the meaning of life.
When our business collapsed because of a recession, I lost everything material. As a result my wife, sons and I almost literally landed on the streets. I also lost my reputation, which I tried desperately, but unsuccessfully to restore.
I had never cheated or intentionally harmed anyone, but nevertheless erred grievously in some of the most important decisions I made. There was no way I could undo my errors and take back the pain I caused my family, my colleagues and many others.
When one walks towards the sun, towards success, our shadow follows us. When one retreats away from the glory and fame, our shadow precedes us, casting a gloom.
A reputation is only that, a shadow. I realised that my character was me, it radiated what or who I am irrespective of my position, direction or pace.
However people rarely see the character because they are blinded by the blot or the bright lights of a reputation.
Without family, friends, associates, money, assets, while deep in trouble on many fronts, and unable to fulfill my responsibilities to our employees, our associates and my family, I was on the verge of giving up on life. I was so overwhelmed and heart broken, I even contemplated suicide.
Suicide is cowardly and irresponsible and my character refused to permit me that escape. So I kept on trudging ahead, fighting challenges, repeatedly falling down, getting up and resuming my fight for survival, self respect and security.
My life journey at that time, took me into a long, dark tunnel of an uncertain and frightening future for many years. My ego was driving me to try and regain wealth and glory, however business success simply eluded me.
The thing about losing everything and unable to succeed in any new business, the 'I', the self gets exhausted. When the arrogance evaporates and ego deflates completely, we stop looking for external forces and influences for answers and start introspecting, contemplating, looking within and meditating.
At that stage I simply came to terms with my situation and surrendered myself to that inexplicable omnipresent force and energy which seems to manifest itself all over the universe and within all beings and things. Then a miracle happened. This power, as some call God was within me and we were not apart. I realised what was initially thought to be a material curse, was actually a spiritual boon.
Returning from the doorway of doom, I was humbled and permanently transformed for the better. Then the value of my insignificant life, and the Omnipresent Eternal was understood and appreciated.
Even though I had arrived at my situation in an unplanned, traumatic manner, it was no less than a spiritual rebirth. I live within society and yet aloof from social activities. I am comfortable being alone, and completely free from everyone and everything, even my own desires.
The result is, a simple life, with few needs and very little material and social wants.
I learnt that the first step on the spiritual journey is simplicity and hence the Sanskrit term 'Sadhu', meaning the one who lives in 'Sadh-gi' or simplicity.
More the wants we have, the greater is our need for material progress. We become imprisoned by our excessive wants and this impedes our spiritual birth and evolution.
I feel I have been reborn, always a child of creation but now only more conscious, more responsive. I also discovered that as I became more grateful, the more content and blissful I became.
Unlike material wealth and relationships, the beauty of wisdom and spirituality is, the more I share the wealthier I become.
If contentment and happiness are my constant companions, then I suppose my character is alright.