During one’s interactions with a cross-section of people from different walks of life, one comes across different kinds of people with different mindsets and attitudes. Naturally these people have varying conceptions of life. But there definitely is a predominant idea about what makes a good life and this invariably subsumes possession of power and pelf. Most of us have this constricted vision about what constitutes a good and fulfilling life. However, the same is far from the truth.

By and large, those who hold positions of power suffer from a gross delusion which completely detaches them from the true worth of an ephemeral human life. First, power and position are always relative, depending on our place in the societal pecking order. In patriarchal societies, a husband may be powerful against his wife, a monarch or autocrat in a monarchy or autocracy, a company head in his company, an elected head of the state in a democracy or any person holding a position of importance.

Thus every person holds a position of influence vis-a-vis others. After all, the head of a company would only be important in his own company or till the time he is the head. A celebrity today may lose his status and appeal with the march of time. He may be replaced by another as happens in the tinsel world of glamour. A very powerful politician could soon be rubbing shoulders with hoi-polloi. How people treat him in such situations depends entirely on his conduct when he wielded a position of influence.

However, whether we continue to command influence or public adulation even after coming down from the pedestal depends on our conduct during the heyday of power. We often forget that we are only a “visitor” to the office of power which may change anytime. Time has been the biggest graveyard of all the bumptious and supercilious people who rubbed people wrongly while in power. We forget the eternal truth that everything that belongs to us today had belonged to someone else yesterday and would be in possession of yet another person tomorrow. So, any arrogance for the passing show of prominence or influence may turn out to be counter-productive.

Many among such people are, however, servile and obsequious to those high in the hierarchy. As they say, the real character of a person could only be known by his conduct towards the weak and underprivileged, and not towards the high and mighty. They are forced to be at the best of their behaviour in front of the more powerful, but are vile and vicious to those down the ladder including subordinates, colleagues, family and friends.

Some of us imagine that our positions give us the right to humiliate the weak without realising that, sooner or later, we will cross over to the other side. When out of power, such people face the real crisis in life, adjusting to the hard realities as they suddenly feel unimportant and sulk heavily in solitude. They may have hoarded money or other material comforts, but lead a rather dismal life without many friends or sympathizers.

We conveniently forget the eternal truth that no one has left this world alive and none of us shall remain in our respective powerful positions forever. The wise ones, ergo, work hard to make hay while the sun shines. They leverage the fleeting power situations to earn goodwill of their friends, relatives and everyone around them. Such people consciously expand their circle of goodwill to positively touch the lives of as many people as possible. Each one of us could be useful and helpful to those around us if we really desire. Our positive and helping attitude towards others could earn us immense goodwill, thereby making our lives meaningful.

Most of the megalomaniacs with a convoluted sense of power and self-importance usually get so engrossed and attached to the impermanent vocations, positions or situations that they stop adding value to their own life. Immersed in mundane affairs, they get so alienated that they end up dehumanising themselves as often reflected in their conduct towards their immediate family members, friends, colleagues and others. Like a self-perceived taskmaster, they keep inventing ways to humiliate others.

Influenced by their negative outlook and orientation, these people hardly find time for positive and constructive tasks. As often as not, they are to blame for the mess in the lives of those they directly or indirectly influence. They spoil their karma by generating negative vibrations for themselves. We should strive for the maximum goodwill while on Spaceship Earth. But most of us remain impervious to the imperative.

Most of us keep running in a maze trying to earn and possess beyond our needs. By doing so, we actually spoil our karma for the sake of our offspring who come with their own destiny and conduct as per the requirements of their own spiritual growth. As such, we should not be overly concerned over the fripperies of human life. Actually, we are guarding the wealth or possessions for others while we are here, often at a huge loss of hurting our own metaphysical growth.

If positions of power were so important or useful, we would remain here forever to enjoy them. But they are nothing but a means to the ultimate end of uplifting our eternal consciousness. All value additions to our eternal consciousness in this life help us see through bigger challenges of spiritual growth during our rebirth. Hence, we ought to conduct ourselves with discretion and judgment so as to guard the eternal interests of our enlightened Self. We should give only as much importance to the objective possessions as is warranted for the growth of our timeless Self.

We often get the impression of our invincibility or omnipotence through the adulation and eulogies of those around us. All these people, who have one or the other axe to grind, treat us like demigods and praise us to the skies. Taking their words to be true, we actually end up transporting ourselves to the ethereal world.

Many refuse to come down to earth, and with disastrous consequences. How futile this misplaced sense of power can be is gauged from the fact that we are often confronted with the hard realities even while in power. After all, a company or a political leader would never be treated with the same importance in another company or State. Even in one’s own company or State, one may not be recognized unless one reveals one’s identity or has the usual totems of power to mark him out as such.

In the context of the 100 million celestial bodies in our galaxy ~ and there being billions of such galaxies in the entire cosmos ~ we are not even a speck in this vast Creation. Our body itself is nothing but a loan from Mother Earth. We can’t take even a speck of dust from this earth after we die. That being so, why should we not focus on guarding our eternal interests of spiritual learning and evolution for a better comeback through reincarnation? So, let’s conduct ourselves with discretion and dignity while we are here.

The writer is an IAS officer, presently posted as Commissioner of School Education, Government of West Bengal. The views expressed are personal and not the government’s.