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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Creativity or Killer Instinct?

Whenever I heard the phrase ‘killer instinct’, it always used to create ‘not a good feeling’ and made me very uncomfortable but I never thought about it deeply. Especially when we hear in sports, I never liked it at all. Recently I had to give thought to it when my nephew asked me to give some philosophical background about sports.       
Our seers and sages from the Vedic times held non-violence as the highest virtue with one of the most valuable sutra “Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah” . Parama dharma or the supreme reality or principle is creation. I consider anything that leads to destruction as the highest crime. All other virtues are simple virtues or simple dharmas and non-violence is the supreme virtue indicating that if there is any thing, which is directly opposite to creation, it is violence. The very concept of ‘killer instinct’ has the idea of violence at its core. Therefore, killer instinct is a very bad concept and just cannot be promoted however useful and effective and popular it is!       
In the Astanga yoga of Patanjali ‘ahimsa’ or non violence is given the first place. This is the first of five yamas or disciplines that form the prerequisites for the practice of yoga. When Patanjali gave all these practices such as yama, niyama, asana pranayama etc, it was clearly for ones own personal spiritual growth and definitely not with reference to the world outside. I found many speakers and writers talk about violence, as some thing that has reference only to the world out side. When you look at violence and nonviolence with respect to the world out side, it is obviously  a necessary discipline for a smooth functioning of the society. If some one violates these social norms he/she will become punishable. I feel that if we interpret ahimsa only in the context of social harmony it is a very superficial meaning of ahimsa. It becomes most meaningful if we look  at it as a tool for one’s own growth. Just think for a while--- what will be the amount of damage a person inflicts upon himself physically mentally and spiritually if he takes to the course of violence!
      As soon as we get any thought of violence, it creates a chain of negative reactions in our mind body complex. The mind gets into a state of agitation and the body chemistry gets terribly disturbed. We pour in huge quantities of adrenalin and steroidal chemicals into the blood that can create enormous amount of imbalance in the body. If you are a sensitive person, the damage done to your mind body complex by these thoughts is much more than the effect it can have on the outside. Interestingly for an insensitive person he will not even realize the damage it does. Whether one perceives it or not the damage is done. Therefore, both the faces of violence are terribly dangerous and cannot be promoted for whatever reason. However, sometimes when all others methods designed to bring about the desirable change in the society or the individual fail, harsh, firm and violent methods are to be used. This does not come under the concept of Ahimsa which is a discipline recommended for individual or social health. After all if any one becomes violent towards the society, the state legislation has provided enough protective measures at different levels starting from the police force to the military , the team that protects law and order. That is a part of the social system and no spiritual teaching is necessary to take care of it.
      Therefore, Indian philosophy prescribes the concept of non-violence basically for protecting your core personality and the idea of external non violence becomes a by-product of this discipline. Since yoga is a system for developing one’s peace of mind, every recommendation is for the sake of self evolution through introspective correction and not with reference to the world around. Several instructions are recommended for the practice of non-violence as a spiritual discipline and it has to be practiced  kaya, vacha manasa—i.e. at mental level  and through words and action. But for any reason if you need to use harshness for correcting  the evil violent forces, then the suggestion by Sri Krishna in Bhagavadgita is to use violence or anger with complete mastery only when necessary as a last resort. And  show harshness and violence outside but never have anger within.your words and  action may look violent but never be harsh in the mind. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to say ‘hiss’ like a snake when necessary but never bite. 
      Coming back to the concept of ‘killer instinct’ that is widely promoted today in competitive games or sports,I strongly feel that this concept is totally against the very philosophy of sports.It is poisonous because this puts the player’s mind also into a killing mode . It makes him contemplate on killing the opponent. With this very posture, we are harming ourselves and the others..
      The contemplation on this thought of ‘killer instinct’ snowballs over time and  the idea goes so deep into ones mind that the person is emotionally charged with the instinct. This preoccupation aoaks in to the system so much, that when he wins he is a killer but when he looses it kills him!  As a result, his whole life is going to be filled with nothing but violence. This same violence shows up in all other activities. 
      You may tell me ‘ok. I agree that this word is not good; this attitude is not good and not very pleasant. But if I give-up this how can I perform in this competitive world! I will become non-active and a non-performer, leave alone winning in a competitive situation. Is there anything else that you can suggest to be a winner without using this cocept of a killer?’Yes. There is a much healthier attitude. ;an attitude in tune with nature; a concept that can never promote violence; an attitude very much in tune with the discipline of ahimsa. This wonderful life enhancing all encompassing spiritually acceptable concept is that of ‘creativity’.
      Become an artist .Who is an artist? He is one whose performance is far far away from any thought of violence. He creates a mesmerizing art piece out of a simple piece of canvas and pencil. A sculptor creates a sculpture out of raw wood or stone. He has an ability to see the hidden beauty and the successful outcome that exists in the plain colorless sheet or the rough piece of stone. The final winning performance is already there even before he puts the first stroke. He only sees the master piece of beauty as if hiding behind the canvas. The sculptor approaches the stone as though the final figure is   pleading him to unfold herself. Once Michel-Angelo was passing by a stone shop and found there was a stone lying by the side of the shop. He went to the owner and wanted to The shop fellow told him ‘why do you want to buy this stone? in fact  I have actually been waiting to get it out of my way .I will only be thankful if you remove it from here. Michel Angelo smiled and said ‘I will show you this stone after an year’ and took that stone. A year later, Michel invited the shopkeeper to a big function which was organized for unveiling a sculpture. Michel told the shop keeper ‘this is the same stone that I brought from your place last year. As I was passing by your shop I heard this beauty asking me to take me and release from the bondage within this hard stone’. The friend could not believe him. A sculptor, an artist, a creator can hear the voice of life from lifeless. He unfolds the beauty hidden and he will bring about the seemingly impossible. For others it may look to be a challenge, a struggle but for the artist it is like an enchanting journey where every moment is a celebration.
      Every activity can be done in two ways-- one is the way of fighting and the other is the way of creating. A child’s growth is not a fight but it is like unfolding the inner potential. This is ‘creativity’. Even a game that we play can be in a killer’s way or a creative way. When we do this in a killer’s way as I explained earlier, our focus will be on the opponent and if we are in a creative way then our attention will be on self. When we are in killer’s way we will be spoiling our body chemistry with the bad chemicals in our blood stream where as if we are playing in a creative way then we vitalize the system by pouring in health rejuvenating chemicals such as endorphins into our blood stream. In creative way of playing, there is always a rhythm and in a killer’s way there is a fatigue and break down of the system. One who takes the game in a creative way he will be able to appreciate the game whether he is a winner or looser. Then ‘I’ is not important but the game becomes important. Interestingly when the spectators watch the game, they also do not feel that it is a war but it is a graceful artwork beautifully shaped into some thing worth watching. I watch the Indian cricket team playing. Whether the score is high or low we can see that Virendra Sehwag’s play is so graceful and it is more like an art work than a war. Once, in an interview when the interviewer asked him how he could play against one of the tough bowlers, his reply was so innocent that he said ‘I do not play according to the bowler but I look at each ball and according to its merit’. The same case is with Roger Fedrer playing tennis. It is so graceful to see how he merges in the game and handles it so smoothly and gracefully. He seems to forget both himself  and the opponent. This is probably the reason that we do not see him running around like a mad man in the court and lose his energy.
      Every skill depends on the training you had. The real skill in training is not only the actual learning of the intricate details of the skill but there is something more. It needs a training in converting all activity into an art piece , an a act of creativity. This is the process of shifting the focus from outside to inside. You need to do it from within and not to focus on the outside. The out side is a situation and ability is inside. Situations are inert. You are the vibrant able being facing all situations.The ability to change the situation to move towards success is the process of training; more challenging the situation more the reward of achievement; more the expression of the inbuilt  freedom.  This is the purpose of playing a game or training in nay skill. This ability to express your inner freedom is called ‘karmasu kaushalam’ by Sri Krishna. This is the choice element that is inbuilt into all living systems. This ability is there in every animal too. You can see this in the monkeys in Amazon forest. They jump from one tree to another tree in a highly skilled artistic way. They only assess and decide about the next leap to the next branch. No other thing is in their purview. They simply express their inner ability. You must see how the little ones are trained by the mother monkey. It is obvious to see how natural it is to become skilled if we do not have the hang ups about the targets but just learn to express the inbuilt inner ability. The difference with man and animals is that they do not know that they are skilled but we as humans have the ability to know that I am the wonderful performer and hence can en joy this expression of the nature’s gift. Now can you see how we have moved from violence and killer instinct to become an artist and a joyful performer? You are an achiever because you could process the expression of the nature’s gift – the ability to adapt and tune to the challenging situation that is inbuilt within all of us. This is what Swami Vivekananda meant when he said ‘each soul is potentially free (divine) and the goal is to manifest this freedom within by controlling nature within and without’. You would be the best player if you decide to express this inbuilt ability in the situation of sports; you would be the best scientist if you chose to express this freedom in the field of unraveling the miseries of nature through mathematical formulae; you will tower the world of music if you express this freedom through culturing the muscles of your fingers on a musical instrument or the muscles of the voice box.
      Now a days, it is unfortunate that we are hearing more and more incidents of shocking incidents of violence amongst big achievers in any field. It is most disheartening to see this happening amongst sportsmen although the philosophy of sports and games is basically to move away from violence and channelize our energies towards comradeship, team spirit, give and take etc. We have been seeing several such incidents such as misbehavior of sports persons with air-hostesses,; Use of banned drugs for enhancing the performance; loose sexual conduct of reputed sports personnel etc. It is not only these social evils. We are seeing several examples of life style related diseases; e.g. we read that a reputed WWF player died of heart attack at the age of 40 years! This is only one example of several hundred early deaths.
      Another important feature of the ‘killer instinct’ is that it is like Opium. It takes away your awareness; when you get into the attitude of working for unfolding the creativity, you are deeply set in your awareness. It enhances your awareness; it opens up the inner doors towards purity which can only manifest as more and more compassion and non-violence. Every evil is characterized by lack of awareness. All violent emotions essentially benumb your awareness. Killer instinct is the height of anger against the opponent. Whenever we are angry we lose our awareness to the extent that we do not even know that we are angry and violent.
      Sri Krishna told Arjuna in Bhagavad-Gita ‘you must participate in the dharma yuddha ( war to remove the incorrigible unrighteous elements in the society) with full awareness; killing is not the thrust ;  to establish the righteousness in the society is the goal ;we had no choice than to adopt this path of war which we accept is violence; but this is the only way to punish the wicked.; oh! Arjuna, become a warrior with full awareness of the purpose and fight for the goal ; establish  a healthy society; this is your duty as a man belonging to the royal dynasty; this is your dharma; in the process you will only manifest your nature, your freedom to be in tune with divinity; you are not the sinner who kills for selfish achievements ; you have to just tune to your inner being and fight’.  
      When we as human beings are capable of recognizing such wonderful truths, when we are bestowed with these abilities how can we behave like unaware instinctual beings? Fighting is an instinct for survival. Here we are not trying to survive for earning our bread. Excelling in any field does not need a killer instinct; it only needs a change in our mind set; it is a wonderful expression of creativity; excelling is flowering .For a plant to come out of the soil it needs a little effort of violence but flowering is effortless; it is softness; it is joy ; it is enchanting; it spreads fragrance. How can we accept that sportsmen should have killer instinct? Krishna continues –‘You cannot fight the war efficiently if you do not have inner peace. Your skill comes from the peace within and not when you are driven by your emotions’. If war can become efficient n  a war with your peace within why do we have to think that a player should cherish this poison of killer instinct to be successful? This is the basic notional correction that is necessary for mankind today in any field of achievement; let us promote this change in mind set.

The degeneration in sports today resulting in misconduct is a manifestation of this concept of ‘killer instinct’ . Let us make sports healthier by changing the mind set and become creative. This will make sportsmen better human beings.


yogabharati said...

Thank you Raghuramji for this wonderful article. Our kids growing in a Competitive environmant should understand the real concept of swa-Dharama. It gives them success in their career as well as grows them spiritually.

Thanks Ayca for the post.
- Savita Joshi

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