Today marks the occasion of Dussehra, a festival celebrated all across the beautiful country of India. It’s the epitome of how a good-hearted soul wins over the evil one, and symbolizes the reign of the truth.
According to Hindu legend, on this day, Lord Ram killed the demon king Ravan and rescued his abducted wife Sita in the holy epic Ramayana. Along with being a depiction of how good always triumphs over evil, this story brilliantly illustrates the pitfalls of ego and pride and how the underdogs, Ram and his army, win over the mighty fighting force of Ravana.
Today is a good day to also meditate on an important aspect of our human existence: Both Ram (good) and Ravan (evil) are present in each of us as well. We can’t eliminate the negativity within us, it’s always there, and we have to learn to deal with it. We are the captains of our souls and there will be times when we’ll have to navigate through the high seas and the storms that come our way.
In his autobiography, Martin Luther King Jr. points out, “… in every one of us, there’s a war going on. It’s a civil war. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care where you live, there is a civil war going on in your life. And every time you set out to be good, there’s something pulling on you, telling you to be evil.”
We have to take charge and fight our inner demons. We have to elevate ourselves and inch towards becoming Ram, instead of dwelling in negativity and evil and becoming Ravan in the process.
It’s a constant fight and it’s vital that we cultivate self-mastery to lead a better, wholesome, happy and successful life. As Krishna instructs Arjun in The Bhagavad Gita, “Reshape yourself through the power of your will; never let yourself be degraded by self-will. The will is the only friend of the Self, and the will is the only enemy of the Self.” He further adds, “To those who have conquered themselves, the will is a friend. But it is the enemy of those who have not found the Self within them.” In other words, those who have genuine self-discipline and self-control, who are “self-conquered,” experience tranquility and live in peace.
Let goodness and positivity flourish inside you and work towards eliminating the negativity that arises within you due to power, money, ego, pride, lust, anger, greed, hate, etc. In the words of Star Wars, shun the dark side and be with the Force and let the Force be with you.
Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, said that our “most efficacious gift,” what distinguishes humans from other animals, the essence of human nature, is the faculty of choice. Each of us as individuals has the power to choose to be either good or bad, a hero or a villain, a saint or a sinner, a warrior or a coward.
In his writings, Marcus Aurelius too wrestled with his inner negativity and reminded himself to make the right choices. He never wanted the light of goodness within him to be influenced by negativity and the superior power that came with being an emperor. Aurelius wrote, “I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own.”
We have both good and evil, beauty and ugliness, hero and villain, Ram and Ravan within us. And so the important question is: What side do you want to be a part of? What kind of person do you choose to become at your core? Good or evil, the choice is yours, and this single choice will influence your destiny and the journey of your life.