Saturday, September 6, 2008

Learning Self-Restraint

“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.” ~ Qur’an (2:183)

In a life full of choices, two paths are distinguished from the others. These paths are literally defined by our actions and are a direct result of our beliefs. We associate actions of kindness and good-will as tenants of the righteous path and those of destruction and chaos as inroads to the path of evil-doing. Life presents to us numerous decisions with every breath we take, decisions whose consequences can be short-lived or instrumental throughout our lives.

In the hope of gaining eternal bliss, the average individual actively walks on the path of righteousness though faltering at times. We execute efforts to shun degrading actions that damage ours as well as others physical and emotional psyche. To materialise this in our conscience, we can think of the effect of an extra-marital affair on the married couple, on the “lover”, on the family and on the community and society as a whole. Thus it is only natural that many religious scriptures admonish adultery and all forms of it. No sane person can argue the fact that this action erodes the very fabric that supports sustainable life i.e. the family unit. The family is centred on building and so the choice of pleasure over faithfulness can never build but only destroy.

We can now appreciate why many of us choose a life of abstinence from such destructive actions as there is no true upliftment in degradation. In theory all that was said sounds achievable yet we live in crime-stricken societies that have broken away from the teachings of good-will. In reality many challenges exist that camouflage what was once just a simple choice of choosing good or bad. The line between good and bad merges and disappears with various degrees of compromise and so we can no longer distinguish what was good or bad and if good and bad even exists.

Many of us become lost at various junctions in our life where wrong becomes desirable and good becomes penance. We find it increasingly hard to choose good over bad and temptations toy with our emotions. As the world continues in this trend our conscience becomes ambushed with guilt and regret. The person who has relatively no choice but to passivley accept and does so in the fear of reprimand still has to learn the most fundamental teaching of exercising right over wrong. The only way to display true self-restraint is to actively choose to do good in the presence of choice and temptation.

Restraint never ruins one's health. What ruins it, is not restraint but outward suppression. A really self-restrained person grows every day from strength to strength and from peace to more peace. The very first step in self-restraint is the restraint of thoughts.” ~ Mohandas Gandhi

As I uphold this month of fasting it becomes evident to me the small victory of self sacrifice and its consequent feelings of satisfaction and fulfilment. It is a training ground for self-restraint culturing us to choose with greater prudence. If one can learn to abstain from something as basic as eating for a set period of time, imagine the effect self-restraint would have on a person’s choices. Some of the veils clouding our judgement would certainly be removed if we can see reason in abstinence and make a conscious effort to practice it.

It is completely in my opinion that if we were to practice more self-restraint then the world would definitely be a better place to live in.

“Grant that I may become beautiful in my soul within, and that all my external possessions may be in harmony with my inner self. May I consider the wise to be rich, and may I have such riches as only a person of self-restraint can bear or endure.” ~ Plato

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