When you can’t solve a problem, be patient while living with it.
A gentleman came to us asking for some perspective. He had been out of work for three years now. His only daughter was unmarried and he was getting increasingly worried because she was over 30 years old. His wife, unable to handle all these “setbacks”, had slipped into depression. “I feel very hopeless. I know complaining about Life is a waste but that’s what I am invariably ending up doing,” he confessed. He wanted to know if there was a way to break free from all the negativity in him and around him and be happy.
Acceptance and awareness, I told him, hold the key to inner peace and happiness. Complaining about Life and its upheavals demonstrates a tendency to resist what is happening. That’s why you are steeped in negativity and hopelessness.
Pretty much like what Shirdi Baba taught the world – advocating faith and patience – the Japanese champion two philosophies: ‘gaman’ and ‘shoganai’.
‘Gaman’ means patience, endurance, perseverance. And while ‘shoganai’ literally means ‘nothing can be done’ or ‘it can’t be helped’; it also denotes a calm determination to face, and eventually overcome, what cannot be controlled. The Japanese language and culture testify to how a sense of precariousness__since Japan is located in one of the most seismologically active spots on the planet; remember the tsunami of March 2011?__has shaped a national consciousness. We have a lot to learn from Japanese culture because most of us are forever complaining of what could have been and what we don’t have!
Obviously, when you don’t get what you want or when you get what you don’t want, you will experience pain. But what can be done to avoid or escape that pain? Nothing at all. The pain has to be faced. Which is why embracing the ‘shogonai’ philosophy makes a lot of sense. Then, you will realize that only ‘gaman’ will work for you. What can’t be avoided or undone has to be faced, lived through, patiently. Such is Life.
I invited the gentleman and his family to embrace ‘gaman’ and ‘shoganai’ as simple, practical philosophies to deal with even in everyday Life. You too can benefit a lot from these philosophies. You are in a traffic jam and late for your meeting. ‘Shoganai’. You get a non-reclining seat on the plane. ‘Shoganai’. There is a power outage. ‘Shoganai’. By any stretch of imagination, ‘Shoganai’ does not imply fatalism. Which is why, it must be understood and practiced with ‘gaman’. Both together encourage us to stop complaining about things that are beyond our control; instead they urge us to accept situations that leave us either foxed or clueless or numb and helpless and plod us to persevere to change those things . In the context of acts beyond our control__like a health setback or a natural calamity or the passing away of a dear one__they remind us to accept reality and go through Life patiently.
Either way, this Japanese way of Life, invites us to stop complaining. It is very similar to Shirdi Baba’s tenets of faith – trusting the process of Life – and patience. Both schools of thought converge to remind us that to complain means to live in grief. Surely, grieving over something does not change reality. Neither do acceptance or faith or patience or awareness. But acceptance of any reality at least helps the one facing it to be at peace. When there is inner peace, there is happiness.