Legalism

I know a person, who claims that he is straightforward and tell things to other directly to them than saying round about ways or through some other mediators.   He is also very strict in using his personal things and use the same yard stick when others use his things.  When someone borrows something from him, he will tell ten times that they should return the thing in the same condition or should replace it.  To say in other words he is a person who tries to live with lots of dos and don’ts, which make others, bit nerves in their relationship with him.  He will even mark the date of the soap and tooth paste which is used for the entire family and won’t replace them until the due date comes.  If soap or tooth paste run out, then all have to manage without them.

Such legalism makes life miserable to others and joyless for oneself.  Such people create some kind of self-imposed idealism and expect everyone to follow their line.  But life is not lived based on legalism but in celebration of relationship.

One time a group visited my ashram.  We have a beautiful terracotta oil lamp hanging from the ceiling which makes our dhyanamandapa more beautiful.  I asked my shishya to make it especially as per my design and he has to give special order for that.  When that group came, one young man, while shifting the chair by mistake hit the lamp and it fall and broke down.  He was so upset and do not want to face me thinking that I will be angry with him. He immediately rushed to by asking sorry so many times and ready to give the money to make it or get it done from where I got it.  But not showing my disappointment, with a smile I said, ‘it’s all right.  It was just an accident.  That could happen to anyone and even to me.  So don’t become upset and lose your peace of mind.  I will get it replaced and don’t worry about the money’.  And he left the ashram without any guilty conscience or bad memory about me or his visit.

For me that terracotta oil lamp can be replaced, but not that relationship if my mistake if I said something which would have hurt him.  Discipline we need, but we should never allow it to degenerate to become legalism.  And ‘Law-bound Disciplines breathe death’ says Foster and further:

…When the Disciplines degenerate into law, they are used to manipulate and control people.  We take explicit commands and use them to imprison others.  The result of such deterioration of the Spiritual Discipline is pride and fear.  Pride takes over because we come to believe that we are the right kind of people.  Fear takes over because the power of controlling others carries with it the anxiety of losing control, and the anxiety of being controlled by others.’— Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline. [As I forgot the take the reference, I cannot give the year, publisher and page number here—db]

Dayanand Bharati.

05/03/2013.