In schools, lessons are taught first and tests taken afterwards. In life, tests come first and lessons are learnt later! I once came upon a book which started with the sentence: “Life is difficult”. Another said the opposite: “It is difficult to accept that life is difficult”. The third said: “Life is simple. We make it complicated”. All three statements are true. It depends on how we view and live life. People live life in different ways. For example, some people borrow books and never return them. An astute man advised his friend: “Never lend a book to anyone. It is never returned.” When his friend asked him how he knew this, he coolly replied: “That is how I built my extensive library!” Some do return the book, but in a terrible condition. A handful of people may return it in the same condition, whereas there are the rare few who return it in a better condition than when borrowed.
Once a young man had a bizarre shopping list — 20 cockroaches, 15 spiders, three lizards and half a kg of dust! When asked, he quipped: “The landlady has asked me to leave the flat in exactly the same condition as when I moved in!” So how do we live our life? Do we live it well and leave the world a better place? Do we mess up our lives and make it terrible for others? Are we problem creators, problem solvers or ourselves problems? We should live in such a way that we make life simple, easy and happy for ourselves and for others. Therefore, we need to learn how to do so. Can life itself not teach us lessons? True, life is the best teacher. However, “a wise man learns from other people’s mistakes, a fool from his own” and a bigger fool never! Instead of learning by “trial and error” we should learn from the wisdom of others and test those lessons through our own experiences.
Sometimes, we may learn wrong lessons. A teacher was demonstrating the ill-effects of alcohol to her class. She put some worms in a beaker of alcohol. The worms struggled and died. “What lesson did you learn from this?” asked the teacher. “Whenever we get worms in the stomach,” concluded a student, “we should drink alcohol!” The lessons from the wise help us to validate our knowledge. Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda once said: “Knowing is not doing. Doing is doing.” Knowing how to live well is not enough. We must put the lessons into practice, and then alone does life become easy and happy. The Bhagavad Gita enjoins us to learn lessons from the scriptures and then perform our actions.