The Test Of Three.

One day the great Greek philosopher Socrates (469 – 399 BC) came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”

“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.”

“Three?”, exclaimed the student.

“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“Oh no,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”

“No, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates interrupted, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?”

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued. “You may still pass though, because there is a third test – the test of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”

“Well it….no, not really…”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?”

The man was defeated and ashamed. This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

It is also rumoured, and I may well fail the three tests, that what the student wanted to tell Socrates was that, his student Plato was having an affair with Socrates’ wife.

The Calling.

Magpie 11 commented on my post THE MOST DANGEROUS STAGE IS RESPECT

“…some one said there is too much Me me me…surely that is what blogging is about?”

Exactly. This is a BLOG, short for Web Log, or a diary written and maintained in the web, with the exception that it is shared with anyone who cares to visit, read and comment. For me, it is a way to crystalise my thoughts and to explore fresh thoughts from my readers.

He also went on to quote me and comment –
” there is an inner calling to pursue certain esoteric things that does not seem to affect most people”

What are these “esoteric things”?
esoteric:: Intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.

Smacks of some sort of elitism to me…… the problem is of course that if most people did seek to pursue these tings, whatever they are, then they would cease to be esoteric.”

In my response, I had written that I would address the issues raised by him in a separate post, and here it is.

I wish that Magpie 11 had chosen a different definition of the word “esoteric”. The same dictionary that he refers to also has this definition –

“b : requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group ; broadly : difficult to understand
a : limited to a small circle

I used the word in these two contexts.

My understanding of the word ‘calling’ stems from my employment background. I went through three phases of a job, where I got paid for what I did, or did not if I did not do what was expected of me; or I left if what I got paid was not worth my while; a career, where I progressed from just a job to assuming ever increasing responsibility; and finally, to a calling. The last was at the peak of my working life when I was able to create a completely different organisation in the late nineties, which continues to flourish till today. Subsequently, the calling became one of care giving and as I write this, that calling continues to operate.

Now, let us look at what ‘calling’ means to me and why I call it esoteric. It is what I would do anyway, with no pay or promotions or other rewards, and nothing else other than, physical disability or death will stop me from doing it.

I also believe that the calling is of two kinds, one is the calling to attend to material things, in which category, I would include my current preoccupation, care giving; and the other which is spiritual. Now, Magpie, please do not mix this with religion. Let me explain.

I believe that my spiritual pursuit forms the foundation of me as a human being, and is based on my central values and beliefs concerning purpose and meaning in life, truths about the world, and my own vision for real-izing my full potential and purpose. My calling is to real-ize my full potential and fulfill my aspirations, and this has to include self regulation. This means that I have to understand and control my thoughts, emotions and behaviour. I fully accept and recognize that other people have the right to hold different values, beliefs, customs and traditions, and that I must, without giving up my own beliefs, show others due consideration and be open to other points of view. This does not mean that I become a door mat and allow others to trample on me, but I am willing to live and let live. I simply expect reciprocation and if I don’t get it, it is of no great import to me.


Why is it esoteric? To the best of my knowledge, a very small minority of the world’s population, wish to pursue this path to Real-ization. That is why I called it esoteric.

And finally coming to the question of Religion, Magpie says – “Yes Religion….. or “The Way”. There is another reason….. it leads to an easy life…. convince your self (or be convinced by the brainwashers) that your life is controlled, ordained by a greater power than you and you can sail along as easy as winking.

This comment I would imagine comes from a scientific temper, now called atheism or virulent anti spiritualism. I do not approve of brainwashing of any kind, spiritual or religious or whatever, but why is someone not willing to accept that the Subject and the Object cannot be the same, considered to have been brainwashed?

I belong to a tradition that fully accepts atheism and materialism as legitimate philosophies. So, I am intrigued that the latest kid, let us call him a Religion, on the block, Atheism is not being considered as a Religion with its own High-priests like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Or am I just playing with semantics? Is it not their esoteric calling, or am I missing something here?

Doing Without – II

The response to my yesterday’s post “Doing Without” has been very interesting. It is after I read the comments that I realized that I should have perhaps added the context in which my friend sent me the quote. The context is in his present despondent mood, having lost his wife of 38 years to cancer. He was talking about his sudden loneliness and I had expressed that if I could, I would have gone over to be with him for some time as, he is unable to leave his home due to his own commitments.

The happiness quotient for material things certainly can be explained away by all that my readers have commented upon. Quite how does one do so in the context of a relationship that has ended in a tragic way? Having personally gone through the experience of losing my wife last year, I can understand his despondency. I think that I have come to grips with the loss whereas he has been unable to so far. He is taking recourse to philosophy!

Let me quote Bertrand Russel in full:

“I have frequently experienced myself the mood in which I felt that all is vanity; I have emerged from it not by any philosophy, but owing to some imperative necessity of action. If your child is ill, you may be unhappy, but you will not feel that all is vanity; you will feel that the restoring of the child to health is a matter to be attended to regardless of the question of whether there is ultimate value in human life or not. … The feeling is one born of a too easy satisfaction of natural needs. The human animal, like others, is adapted to a certain amount of struggle for life, and when by means of great wealth homo sapiens can gratify all his whims without effort, the mere absence of effort from his life removes an essential ingredient of happiness. The man who acquires easily things for which he feels only a very moderate desire concludes that the attainment of desire does not bring happiness. If he is of a philosophic disposition, he concludes that human life is essentially wretched, since the man who has all he wants is still unhappy. He forgets that to be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”(Emphasis mine)

In the context of relationships, this does not make sense. Having had one very satisfying and happy relationship for decades and to suddenly to lose it and “be without” cannot be part of happiness. Unless he is totally unfeeling or he has suddenly found an alternative, how can he be happy immediately after the loss?

I am sure that my friend will get over his despondency in time. I certainly hope so. On the other hand, I also know of a some cases where this was not possible, and the surviving spouse wasted away.

Something does not quite gel with what Bertrand Russell says when it comes to doing without relationships when one has lost a cherished one.

Is it your dream life?

There is a wonderful blog called A Deaf Mom Shares Her World which I strongly recommend to all.

This blog is full of such amazing stories about a family of deaf people and what they do.

In the latest blog, the blogger asks the question “Are you living your dream life?
In my comment on her blog I said “I am a Vedantin from India. What you probably know as a Hindu. For Vedantins, life itself is a dream. It is unreal. What you probably know as Maya or inaccurately translated as illusion. In Eastern religions, there is no substance to this life and it is but a dream. This has now been kind of supported by modern physicists like Fritjof Capra. So, to your specific query, Yes, my life is a dream!”
A Zen Master tells his students that he had a dream in which he was flitting around like a butterfly. Since he woke up he has been unable to decide whether he is the master who dreamed about the butterfly or if he was the butterfly dreaming that he was the master with the students.
Eastern traditions, religions and philosophy are full of such amazing insights that one can get completely lost in a life long study. That is what happens to Sanyasis and Monks in the Eastern traditions.

In the Indian tradition, the training in such matters start from the time of the individual’s student days called the Brahmacharya Ashrama, continues during his householder days called the Grahasthashrama Ashrama, takes serious contours during his retirement days called the Vanaprastha Ashrama and culminates in his total withdrawl from society days called the Sanyasa Ashrama. While, from every stage one could jump into the last stage under the express approval of Rishis who satisfy themselves that the individual has no other responsibilities, normally, the individual experienced a full and rich life before the full time pursuit of matters spiritual.

Perhaps my answer to the blogger should have then been “As a Vedantin, my dream is to become a Sanyasi and I am on the path. I am now in the Grahastha Ashrama stage due to circumstances beyond my control, but I have every hope of moving to the other two Ashramas.” In all honesty, I cannot tell her that I am not living the life of a Grahastha as a Brahmachary dreams of.

Would she have understood it? Do you, dear reader?