The price tag of Pretension

Pandavas could make out the evil designs of Duryodhana through the hints of the kind and virtuous Vidura. Duryodhona’s men planned to burn the Pandavas alive in the house of lac on a new moon night. Pandavas themselves set the house on fire and escaped through an underground tunnel undetected. Duryodhana thought that his plot has become successful and was overjoyed internally. The news of this disaster and the demise of the glorious sons of Pandu reached Hastinapur. When Dhritharastra heard the news, he cried out in grief. “Alas, my brother Pandu has died again today because his heroic sons and their illustrious mother have been killed. What a cruel destiny! How can I face life without my gentle nephews?” Dhritharashtra externally pretended to be sad. But internally he was celebrating. An expert ptetension!

What’s wrong about pretension?

Pretension seems to be pretty smart way of becoming successful. It serves dual purposes – we can project ourselves as a virtuous and generous though we actually fall short of being one. We can cover up our mistakes and misgivings and save our face in the public (BG 16.17). It saves a lot of our hard work and time which can be directed for a better end (BG 16.11-12). It helps us to take financial risks and cover up our failures. And as such it is a common place. Business magnets does it. Bureaucracy does it. What’s wrong if we do it? As such, the end justifies the means.

Success is not cheap. If something comes easily, it will go away quickly. History has taught it. In a society, majority of things go by law. Pretension means we are doing something against law; we need to hide it from a majority of people. There will be always fear of being exposed. There is a fear that people may lose trust in us if we are exposed. The higher and larger will be the stakes, greater is the risk involved and greater is the anxiety. It may be possible that we have become expert in escaping being caught. Everyone around is not our friend. There is competition and enemies out there. They are always looking for the opportune moment to expose us and put us down. Even Lion, the king of jungle is in constant anxiety to safeguard its hunted prey from other predators. It is possible that we may be successful in decimating our opponents to dust always (BG 16.13-15). This can only be possible if we have strong and powerful accomplices in our fraud. It is always possible rather it is a reality that our own confidants may abandon us and expose us. To have security amidst all these fears, we will be inadvertently forced to do more cover ups. To save one lie, we have to say another lie.

Does it make us happy?

When we are deceiving someone be it in a small way or a big way, we need to face the guilt from within. We are cheating the innocent. We are ungrateful. We cannot enjoy spoils while being gripped with mounting anxiety and fear. The predicament is similar to trying to enjoy a seven course meal with ulcers on tongue. We need to constantly ensure that the food doesn’t touch the ulcer while trying to savor its taste. We are always suspicious of everyone. We cannot derive happiness from relationships. When we get something through easy and unfair means, we are bereft of the real fulfilment in heart – the one that comes only through hard work. We will also miss the learning and the experience that comes through a hard work. A student can clear an exam through malpractice and put up a show of success and impress everyone. He can never get the learning and experience that we can get by going through the rigors of preparing for and performing in an exam.

The way out

In order to come out of this endless entanglement, we need to realize the poisonous price tag that pretension comes with. This malady had put the great leaders of the past behind the bars and landed the big businessmen on roads. Greed is often the culprit that compels us to perform this crime. When we keep unrealistic targets, make unrealistic promises, have a high estimation of oneself, we are often helplessly made to pretend in some way or other. It is always better to be on the ground and play safe. Before embarking on any venture, we need to spend quality time on analyzing our strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats so that our goals and expectations will be realistic. Greater wealth for life in the long run are trusting and honest relationships earned through hard work than petty, external gains earned through cheap means (BG 18.37). The company of those who are honest and hard working will come a long way in saving us from succumbing to this trap. Dhrithrashtra owing to the company of evil Duryodhana and treacherous Shakuni gave in for this heinous and foolish plot.