Groupism – Harmful or Helpful?

The Pandavas in the guise of Brahmins set on their journey towards Kampilya for the svayamvara of Draupadi. They came across a group of Brahmins who are on their way for the same. They were very excited to attend the festivities and receive charity. The Pandavas joined them and proceeded towards Kampilya. The celebrations were lavish. Drupada constructed a huge stadium for this purpose. Many festivities and cultural performances were held and sacrifices were performed for the first fifteen days. Charity was profusely distributed. The svayamvara was on the sixteenth day. Kings from all the corners of the world arrived hoping to win the hand of Draupadi. The test was very tough. Many kings tried and failed miserably. Drustadyumna, Drupada’s son called for any last contestants. Arjuna looked at Dhaumya who smiled and nodded. As Arjuna walked towards the arena, the assembled Brahmins roared in joy and waved the deerskins. Some of the elder Brahmins were doubtful – “How can one untrained in arms and lacking strength succeed where even the lords of this world have failed?”. Let us discuss about groupism and its role in life.

We are social beings. We need encouragement, security and a sense of belongingness. It is but natural that we want to be part of a group. It can be a family or a workplace. Can we be part of any group we come across? No. We are an individual with our own potentials and interests. There are also universal human values like to cooperate, to contribute, to respect and to love. Let us discuss in this light on what basis we can select a group that will be compatible and conducive to us and help us in leading a meaningful and happy life. A group can be compared to a road. We select a road if it can take to our desired goal. We select a road if it can take to our goal in a way compatible and comfortable to us.

Knowing ourselves

To make any decision in life, it is important that we know about ourselves. We can only know ourselves best than anyone else. Knowing ourselves involves knowing our interests, talents, potentials, limitations and vulnerabilities. This helps us in identifying areas where we can improve ourselves through education and association and find means and ways to engage our potentials and talents in a way that brings fulfilment and meaning to ourselves and contribute to the world around. If we fail to understand ourselves, we are prone to distracted and allured by the populist ideas of success and happiness that are ever-changing and can potentially leave one unfulfilled and lonely. Bhagavad Gita gives us a way to develop this essential ability of self-awareness (BG 14.11). This can be done by adopting the lifestyle in mode of goodness i.e. food habits, manners and attitudes given in 14th, 17th and 18th chapters.

The goal

The goal determines the fabric of the group – its values and the style of functioning. There are many groups in the society and social media with different motives. Some are just meant for socializing and indulgence. For example, the group of the brahmanas, described above, their purpose is indulgence in getting charity and feasting in the festivities. This only fosters self-centeredness and a culture of gossip and back biting that is detrimental both collectively and individually. Some are radical, racist and extremist in thought or act or both. This breeds envy, hatred and violence. This not only causes disturbance to the society but it also affects the character and values of the individual members. For example, the Kauravas in Mahabharat. Karna though innocent because of the bad association of Kauravas got degraded in his values and purpose. Their relationships, social and professional roles get disrupted. The goal of the group should be in tandem with the universal human values. It should also resonate with our interests and inspirations.

The culture

A group is not just defined by its goal but also its members. Leadership and management plays a key role (BG 3.21). Every nation has a cherished, ideal constitution. Its implementation and enforcement depends on the political leadership and cooperation of citizens. The members should be focused on upholding the values and pursuing the goal. There should be a means of inspiration and education to sustain the purpose and values. We should have the confidence that we have the required support and mentoring to improve ourselves and contribute meaningfully.

The need to belong to a group is natural. The choice regarding which group can be exercised as conscientiously as possible for a better and meaningful life.