Learning from the Masters

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. So said Confucius some 2400 years go.

I turn 47 in a little over 4 months from now. I left school almost 30 years ago. I remember leaving home some 24 years ago. Malaysia turns 51 come August/September, depending on which “independence” you’re inclined to lean toward to. So many miles have gone by. So much water has flowed under the bridge. So many experiences tasted. So, what am I trying to get at?

Looking at myself, looking all around me, especially in the aftermath of the 8/3/08 GE, and the mammoth challenges this country is staring straight at for probably the 1st time in all of 50 years of independence, I realize that we have come a long way, both as individuals and as united a nation as we could ever be under the circumstances. That’s the reality. But, there’s still a long way to go yet along this journey – as a people of this country, irrespective of the time we have left yet. How we get there is even more important than what we look like when we actually “arrive”. Because this has been one of the flaws in process of building the “modern Malaysia”. We have been too occupied with our appearance than what we really are below the surface. We have been contented with just doing the “facials” instead of concentrating on removing the fat. We have spent too much time, energy and resources on the things that divide rather than on what can unite.

One good thing about the GE 08 was the “Makkal Sakti” – the people power phenomenon. It shows a new mentality among the people. It shows we are prepared to “pay the price” for a better future. It shows a certain maturity. It shows that we are prepared to get out of the “highway to hell” and get back on the “road to freedom”.

Signposts help us find our way and keep track as we continue on our travels and journeys. That’s why a blast from the past may well help us get back on track. We may do well to take a leaf (or huge sheaves of leaves as may be necessary!) from another past Master. Here are no less than 10 sobering, if not inspiring thoughts from the Mahatma himself – Gandhi:

1. Change yourself.

  • “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
  • “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”

2. You are in control.

  • “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

3. Forgive and let it go.

  • “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
  • “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

4. Without action you aren’t going anywhere.

  • “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

5. Take care of this moment.

  • “I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.”

6. Everyone is human.

  • “I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”
  • “It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”

7. Persist.

  • “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

8. See the good in people and help them.

  • “I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others.”
  • “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.”
  • “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

9. Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self.

  • “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
  • “Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”

10. Continue to grow and evolve.

  • “Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”


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