4 ways to deal with uncertainty

It was the svayamvara of Draupadi, the beloved daughter of Drupada. She was born in order to fulfil the desire of Drupada to have the valorous Arjuna as his son-in-law. But by the trick of destiny, Arjuna died in a fire accident at Varanavat. There was a rumor that Arjuna escaped the fire accident and was hiding somewhere. Drupada hoping that this rumor would become true arranged for the svayamvara. The contest was very tough and only warriors of the caliber of Arjuna could win the contest and win Draupadi’s hand in marriage. Drupada was anxious about the result of the svayamvara. The assembled princes tried with all their might to pass the test of archery but in vain. Then, a brahmana volunteered to try. To everyone’s surprise, he passed the test. Drupada had to oblige and gave Draupadi to this mysterious brahmana. Drupada was anxious – who is this brahmana? Is he Arjuna or some stranger who was lucky enough to win Draupadi by chance? Uncertainty is something that we cannot do away with in our life – from a fluctuating internet connection to a new job and place of work. Sometimes it suddenly knocks at us and sometimes we have to consciously welcome it. Let us discuss about the nuances of uncertainties in life and the ways to deal with them.

Our ability to know is limited. Our ability to influence what we know is further limited. Therefore in life we come across things and people whom we do not know at all or whom we know only little. The degree of uncertainty is proportional to the complexity and dynamism of the system or the relationship we are dealing with. With the passage of time, our lives and the world around is becoming more dynamic and complex (BG 16.11), it is important that we learn and practice the art of dealing with uncertainty.


The first step in dealing with uncertainty is to know about it. The first and the general response to an impending uncertainty is fear. The way to combat fear is to increase our awareness (BG 16.1). In the case of Drupada, initially he was anxious about the plight of Draupadi after svayamvara. He regained his composure and sent Dhristadyumna to follow Draupadi and Arjuna and Bhima in the guise of brahmanas. When Dhristadyumna came back and informed Drupada of his findings, Drupada was less anxious and more hopeful that Draupadi was likely won by Arjuna. When we endeavor to know about the uncertainty at hand, we will get to know something more about it. That something will help us to estimate the gravity of our predicament and can potentially enable us to face the predicament in a more constructive way. At least we will come to know that the situation at hand is beyond our ability to know. We can know about something unknown through expert consultation, study of history and rational prediction.


Once, we acquire the best possible knowledge about the uncertainty at hand, we can discern what is in our circle of influence and what is in circle of our concern. Then we can do our best to influence the situation favorably. Once, Drupada got the first-hand information from Dhristadyumna, he then sent a brahmana to find about the family background of Yudhistir and the Pandavas in the guise of brahmanas. He then sent an invitation for a royal feast. As we put conscious and appropriate effort, the uncertainty unfolds further. Finally with respect to that which is not in our influence, we can prepare for the worst. If we meet with an accident, initially we go through a lot of shock and trauma. After the preliminary treatment and pain medication, we will get an estimate of the treatment that is needed and the possible side effects. Then we can predict the best and worst scenarios possible and prepare accordingly.


Once we have put our best efforts and are prepared for the worst, we can wait for the future to unfold. We are well-informed and well-prepared. Our life is not completely uncertain, only a part of it has become uncertain that too it is going to be for sometime. One’s job may be affected, but family is intact, health is intact and community is intact. When we see the broader view and bigger purpose of life (BG 18.21), the uncertainty at hand and its effects become less significant.


The presence of god and his love for us is the greatest certainty. We can become aware of his presence and recognize and reciprocate with his love by connecting to him through yoga of devotion. Our relationship with god is beyond influence and limitations of time, space and circumstance. When we are stably situated in our relationship with God, we can easily go through the trials and tribulations of life and existence in this world and go ahead despite them (BG 18.58).