Believe it or not

Coming to a place like India, one is crudely confronted with the question of beliefs. Like at the Golden Temple in the Punjabi city of Amritsar, the spiritual home of the Sikhs with their strong beliefs of ethics, morality, and values. And their teachings to remove anger, lust, greed, attachment, and pride from one’s life. It all comes in a shockingly different package, however. And then moving on to Dharamsala, one is again shown a set of values and beliefs to reflect on. It can all be a bit overwhelming and confusing to distil but it is important to see the essence of it all and remember that the map is not the territory. Some beliefs and values are universal and actually very similar despite the dressing.

The point, however, is to be aware what beliefs serves us personally, and which don’t. In terms of world-views, so many people go through life thinking that they don’t have the power to make their own decisions, conforming to what others do, or what others tell them to do. Or that life is short and meaningless so let’s just have fun and enjoy it. Or worse even, that there’s only one way to do things and fanatically follow the herd.

Beliefs are those deep strong convictions that prop us up as we go through life – like the legs of a table. And if we adopt weak beliefs, or beliefs that are not true to our essence, the table will be shaky. So many young people (and old ones) struggle with some fundamental personal beliefs ranging from “I’m too short, too fat, too tall, not good enough” to even more dangerous ones like “I don’t have a choice” or “I don’t have a say”.

We owe it to ourselves and to Life, to stop, think of what we actually believe in and courageously decide what our right beliefs are. There are so many beliefs we can adopt and this is ultimately a deeply personal choice. But to be secular for a moment and quote Viktor Frankl, consider the following four key beliefs: Firstly, believe that we always have a free choice in life. We may not be free from conditions, constraints or obligations, but we are always free to decide which attitude we are going to adopt or how to behave. Secondly, we have a responsibility to be who we ought to be. We are tasked in life to become the best we can, tough as it may be. Thirdly, believe that reaching out to someone or something other than our self will ultimately be more fulfilling than having lots of fun or enjoying lots of power. And lastly, believe that we have the defiant power and strength to overcome any “how” if we have a strong enough “why”.