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My Understanding of Life

Lt Gen (R) Syed Shujaat Hussain HI, HI (M), Tbt.

The authors illustrious career spans over 54 years, combines five distinct features; active military service, experience of civil bureaucracy at Federal Level, infrastructural development, high managerial/organizational positions, and planning/administration of Higher Education. Is the Founding Rector of National University of Sciences & Technology, a top university of Pakistan and internationally highly regarded, from 1991 to 2007. For his distinguished and meritorious services, has been bestowed with two of the second highest awards by the Government of Pakistan. He has been a member of the governing bodies of Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC), and other academic institutions of higher learning till recently.

Over the past few months, I have been reflecting over my entire life, spanning more than 75 years, to figure out the experiential wisdom I have gained, and the lessons learnt so that these could be passed onto younger generations irrespective of their faith/beliefs, culture, caste, creed, and standing in life. I wish to see them looking beyond their preferences and visions of to-day, to become the rising stars of tomorrow. With this in mind, I would like to share my perceptions about life and the conclusions I have reached which are based on my observations and experiences and the study of various schools of thought,

duly synthesized, with an earnest hope that these will instruct, inform and inspire them to create a safe, stable, and sane global society.

I strongly believe that our lives are structured in four dimensions: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. All four are closely interlinked and part of the same reality, though each developing gradually in stages, and cannot be comprehended in isolation of each other. Absence/deterioration of any one will adversely effect the growth of others. However, the predominance of intellect/mind is no more than a transition in the evolution of spirit from a lower level to a higher level, ultimately reaching the spiritual enlightenment. His This is an essential pre-requisite for evolving to near perfection by imbibing the attributes of God, and manifesting love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, justice, creativity, etc for humanity, and thus becoming His image on earth. In growth lies life and in stagnation lies death. This is the law of nature applicable to all forms of life including plant, animal, and human kingdoms; each bestowed with its peculiar spirit to grow and reach perfection but within its own category/ambit. Readers will appreciate the linkages in humanbeings as they proceed further in this article.


Science has shown beyond any doubt that our health is largely dependent on what we think, eat, drink, and breathe. There is no harm in enjoying nutritious, well balanced/ healthy diet, and other bounties of life, but these should be within the well established norms and limits. Quality of life, we live today will determine our condition in the later years. The indiscretions of younger days have profound repercussions during the old age. When the ailments strike, the medical treatment, no doubt, greatly helps and is necessary, but the real cure comes from within our own bodies and minds by restoring the balance/equilibrium of various elements of which body is composed, self healing (with or without medication), and by the Grace of God. The latest trend involves treatment of patients in all aspects of human life especially medical, surgical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Prayers and emotional support by you and your well wishers are therefore a great source of relief and strength to the sick people who you need are medical/psychological most vulnerable and i.e. spiritual when help. Bacteria, of viruses etc are present everywhere but overcome you only when your power resistance/immunity is down. Recent research indicates that a patients immune system can even be trained to attack various forms of cancer by boosting immunity and activating a variety of cells to go after tumors.
(Mayo Clinic Immunologist, Keith L Knutson)










emotionally, and spiritually sick, when we succumb to temptations of life like lust for power and pleasure, greed for material wealth, selfish and unjust behavior, pride, arrogance etc, all leading to mental and emotional instability with pronounced egocentric and anger traits. In this process, you might even lose faith/spirituality, moral/ethical values, self controls and inner strength. Positive thinking coupled with faith, hope, and a strong motivation to recover must therefore be inculcated in the patients. The genetic tendencies also play their part for becoming what we are but to a large extent, we can regulate, sublimate/redirect, and control these tendencies by adapting various counter (if measures needed) like and changing our mindsets, priorities in life, eating habits etc, through will-power, prayers, medication/psycho-therapy physical exercise, in order to change our lives for the better or worse. If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize that many of our physical and emotional problems/sufferings could have been mitigated or altogether avoided. For this, the parents must act as role models for their children who will not be moved by their empty words.


Stress is part of life due to physical, mental or emotional reasons, especially in a competitive environment, but it can be managed through positive thinking, inner strength, realistic/attainable goals, and trust in God. Meditation, prayers,

physical exercise, advance planning, relaxed attitude of mind, and laying correct priorities in life, are a great help to reduce stress, minimize cardiac and neurological problems, and improve immunity against various infections. In short, to work avoid stress, health time management, stress management, management,

management, family and financial management etc should figure prominently and start early in your lives. To ensure financial health, plan ahead, live within your means and the budget. Always save some portion of your income to help you go through crises and rainy/retirement days. Do not live on large credit/loans which can be difficult to pay off using regular income. Avoid ostentatious living. The methodology will vary from person to person.

The intellectual growth, in the simplest terms, means development of the mind i.e. the faculty of reasoning and analytical abilities, and the capability to think rationally and understand objectively. This is a necessary condition for any progress to be made. Intellect and will to change, choose and

perform, and ability to innovate and create is what separates us humans from other creatures. It is well understood that for intellectual development, education, both formal and informal will be necessary. thinking. step but However, by intellectual development I do not mean smarts or being well versed in a specific field or way of The fulfilling study of sciences and arts is an essential not a sufficient condition for ones intellectual Study of mind alone does not take you beyond Intellectual development, in my opinion, is akin


the mind itself just as the study of mental illness is not enough to restore sanity. to nurturing of wisdom based on knowledge and past experience. One could be very smart but lack wisdom. In most cases, it is the wisdom that leads to success and for which we have to make positive efforts. The meditation, and deeper analysis of an issue, should always lead to a positive conclusion and an action plan, and not to a mental paralysis. Use mind as a mechanism to achieve a specific purpose after which it should go into a meditative mode and thus become more creative. There is also a close link between the intellect/mind and the spirit. One cannot achieve intellectual development unless and until both intellect and spirit complement each other and progress in concert. Intellect can be destructive without the spirit, and spirit can be blind without reason which can lead to extremism and terrorism. In other words, intellectual endeavors, without the


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important variable of a very complex nature and have a deep influence on human behavior. The capacity of an individual to use his or her emotions to the best advantage of self or others in life, is what really matters. Love and hatred, serenity and anger, contentment and jealousy, are some of the typical examples of an emotional state while dealing with difficult and critical situations. During turbulent periods of your lives, you must therefore learn to remain calm, and control your emotions which are the reactions of your body to your mind or a reflection of your mind in the body. Be like a deep sea which can absorb all vagaries of stormy weather. Heavily charged emotions take you away from the path of balance and make it harder for you to listen to voice of reason, wise counsel, and divine guidance coming from higher consciousness. To stay composed will require self education/training, a strong willpower, and sometimes a good/reliable listener to take the pressures out. Accept people as they are, and not what you would like them to be. While giving advice, say things in a way that is empowering, encouraging,

and touch their hearts. On occasions, it may be prudent to keep silent till you have connected with your audience and brought them to a good listening mode. Start with topics/subjects in which the others may be interested and then develop your main argument. Always begin with praise and recognition of a part of their work/behavior that you like. Most people will respond better to praise than to criticism.

Let not the egoistic mind run your life.

Do not let your

true self get covered up or obscured by your mind or body. The most common ego symptoms are linked to possessions, position you hold in life, education, knowledge, recognition, physical appearance, pride, social standing, family history, etc. Ego needs are endless. None of this is your real Being. It is good to aim at perfection in life but always be realistic and practical. Similarly, fear is an outcome of the projection of your mind to the future which leads to many psychological problems like tension, anxiety, worry, depression, nervousness, dread, phobia etc. This can be overcome by positive thinking, self confidence, thorough preparation, and faith in God. A strong motivation, coupled with emotional involvement in the assigned task, is quite important to achieve success. It will allow you to keep working even for 24 hrs per day without

any fatigue and stress. If you can control your mind and emotions by self education and spiritual means, you have conquered the best part of your life.

I believe spiritual development is tantamount to reaching higher awareness or higher consciousness, ultimately attaining enlightenment. Like the mind, the spirit is also continuously evolving. A man is born with spirituality along with her/his mind and physical body. It is only that he/she is not aware of it. It is ironical that we nourish the physical and the intellectual aspects of life in order to develop its full potential right from the beginning but hardly make an effort to make the spirit/spirituality grow alongside. Some divine teachers strongly feel that spiritual training of the child should start right in the mothers womb through mothers meditation and prayers, with full support of the father which provides the right based environment. on our The in higher the awareness /consciousness, belief

supernatural, with God as a focal point, grows gradually with the development of mind in the forefront. In my opinion, all moral and ethical values which cannot be subjected to experimental sciences come under the domain of spirituality with a common framework that leads to its Origin i.e. God Who through His Dispensations provides the guidelines without suffocating/limiting

the intellectual potential of human beings. Therefore, all acts of mercy, forgiveness, charity, compassion, selflessness, giving rather than taking, sacrifice, etc are spiritual in nature, levels differing from person to person.

Many times, we attempt to acquire such awareness by virtue of an objective and nuanced study of ideologies or philosophical principles implicit in life and words. However, no one philosophical thought has a monopoly over this. According to my understanding, the spirit of all revealed religions is the same i.e. to make us spiritually grow and become exemplary humanbeings who are devoted to all that is good, just, and beautiful in this world and which will also prepare us for the life hereafter, on an entirely voluntary basis without any compulsions. That is where freedom of choice comes in, without which there can be no accountability. Under the concept of progressive revelations, the methodology might vary from time to time to ensure its relevancy.

In my opinion, an endeavor to acquire higher awareness begins with a thirst for a deeper understanding of natural and supernatural, and continues with our own spiritual experiences
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which bring us closer to our Lord and lead us to discover Him in our hearts as an internal and eternal phenomenon. I therefore believe that if your direction is right which may be difficult to determine, intentions are pure and you continue to search, you will find your spiritual destination. Youll know when you have found it by discovering a sense of humility, bliss/ nirvana/qalb-e mutma-inna (an ultimate spiritual condition of a fully satisfied heart), and appreciation of life, when you start living not just for yourself but for others, when giving means more than receiving, and when higher values assume a predominant role in life. You will then reach a level where your Essence or Developed Conscience i.e. I or Being becomes a reflection of your spirituality and is always in the driving seat, and acts as a watchdog over the mind and body both of which are conditioned to your past and genetic tendencies, and already under the deep influence of your ego and emotions. To put it simply, some thinkers define lifes sole purpose as a process of spiritually evolving oneself, while the lifes work as the service one provides to humanity- both are inherently inter- connected and contribute towards each others growth in my view. In short, spiritual bad. growth is a perpetual phenomenon either towards progression or retrogression depending on our deeds, good or

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I also wish to add a few words about destiny, which in my opinion is a sum total of our own efforts, supported by the Will of God. We should all aspire to lofty goals by demonstrating competency, commitment to our jobs, hard work, and persistence, while being cognizant of our strengths and limitations. But as a starting point, we must have a well thought out vision followed by a pro-active approach to accomplish it. That, however, will take us to a certain level of achievement, which obviously would vary from person to person. But anything beyond it is outside our control and lies in the domain of another power greater than ourselves and the world around us. I think, accepting this reality is an important spiritual recognition. The accident of birth, level of potential inherited, the opportunities that come our way, and the final outcome of our plans and efforts cannot be predicted, comprehended and explained through a rational approach only. Even on death, we have no control except that we can invite it prematurely through an abuse of our bodies and souls. The lamp of life may still contain oil but its flame may be extinguished prematurely if we misuse it or do not protect it from external hazards. The luck factor also comes into play in life but it should not be overstated or lead us to discount our efforts.

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The ups and downs are part of our existence and there is rarely smooth sailing. The challenges and crisis should be seen as an opportunity to grow and mature. Human beings live on hope. Their progress both in this world and the hereafter depends on how much struggle they have put in to achieve their objectives. If hope is taken away from them, they will stop working which will be the antithesis to the purpose of their creation. When a person goes through a cycle of depression, tension, uneasiness, sickness, etc, either he raises his hands towards God for assistance, or he goes to faith healers, shrines, psychotherapists etc for solace and help, a process which builds up his hope and reduces pressure on his mind. To escape from the hard realities of life, he may even turn to alcohol or drugs. Another phenomenon which is quite common in a living being is the natural urge for knowing the unknown or the future from the astrologers, palmists and numerologists to build up his morale and chart a course of action for the future. These soothsayers may somewhat be accurate about the past, but can be totally wrong about the future which largely depends on our own efforts and Will of God not known to any one. Anjum kiss tarah butla saktay hain teri kismet ko Tou to khak-e zinda hay, taa-baey sitaara tou naheen -Iqbal
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(How can the stars foretell your destiny when you are an active and living soul, not subservient to stars?)

Do not despair or fear, and never accept defeat at the outset. To survive and grow, you need a powerful motivation and inner strength. The recognition of your work is important but any lack of external validation should not worry you. It should make you become even more self-reliant and independent, allowing you to find your own bearing/direction without relying on others. Selfdoubt or lack of confidence in your abilities should not depress or prevent you from making further efforts to achieve your goals. If in-spite of your best efforts, you do not prevail, then see this as a learning opportunity and reflect on what needs to change in you and around you to do better in the future endeavors. It is always difficult to accept and implement change as the new is not yet established and the old has not yet left; they exist side by side. Let the change take place through a process of transformation in your mindsets in order to ensure its permanency. Also remember that happiness is a state of mind, and is not totally dependent on success or material gains.

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Next, I wish to cover some social aspects of life in which human relations play a predominant role. We are a part of society and required to live in an environment not of our own making. others. in others. Just as we have strengths and weaknesses, so do One should be mindful of this reality but focus on good Understand that friendships and loyalties can change

by our actions and reactions, and when personal interests get involved. What is important is that we try to get along well with others without compromising any of our core values. a family or a marriage, problems occur. Even within But resolving them

requires wisdom, patience and tact. Disagreements in life are always there, but one must learn to disagree in an agreeable manner. effort. Like any organic structure, family, marriage, and friendship need constant nourishment, protection and perpetual Fidelity, mutual trust based on credible behavior, and bond of love are the bedrock of a successful marriage. Always keep the communication channels open. Never take your life partner, your parents, your siblings, your children, and even your friends for granted.

Accept responsibility for the correct upbringing and best possible education of your children with equal emphasis on
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spiritual values which will keep them away from the ills of the present day world. I also believe that at a tender age, a bit of pruning at the right time, may be in order just like a growing plant if not pruned regularly and its branches not trained in the right direction, will turn into a bush and not give the desired fruit on maturity. Also, to create stability, develop a positive, healthy and balanced relationship with your parents, siblings, and your family. The old parents require, need and deserve lot of love and emotional support. Do not sacrifice the interests of one at the altar of the other. Each has its own place and importance which requires recognition and support. Avoid jealousy at all costs. It will burn/consume you inside-out and encourage manipulative tendencies. Avoid building up of anger which is very harmful to your mental and physical health and a reflection of your abnormal emotional state, through tolerance, rationalization, and intense physical exercise to expend your negative energy. Give space to others to live and let live. Be loving and forgiving. Forgiveness is a Godly act. We can all make mistakes. At your work place, efficiency, creativity, self discipline, team work, dedication, loyalty, honesty and integrity are the keys to success. Have the resilience to absorb the rebukes/ criticism of your superiors/seniors which often happens in practical life. Do not react overly.

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I also wish to underscore the importance of compassion and giving to charity. This is part of our social responsibility. The society has done so much for us and for so many of us. We are obligated to return these blessings in one form or the other. As one of my prominent teachers stressed during my academic days, do not forget your roots and the people to whom you belong. Always treat them well, irrespective of the dizzy heights that you might attain in your careers. I will go a step further by saying that we should also empower them by teaching, and equipping them with education, tools and skills so that they can take charge of their own lives rather than bailing them out of recurring problems.

To quote from an anonymous article, Life is like a train ride. People get on and off. Some accidents and delays will translate into great moments of joy, some in profound sorrow. But the bigger mystery of our journey is that we dont know when our last stop will come. Neither do we know when our travel companions will make their last stop--- not even those sitting in the next seat. But one day, we will get to the main station only to meet up with everyone else along-with their
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baggage which was contributed en-route by others who enriched each of our lives.

I have put these thoughts together to highlight the large potential bequeathed by God to human beings, and to emphasize a greater need for a saner and safer world where the people can develop this potential by a pro-active approach, healthy/productive living, and cultivating tolerance for each others customs, traditions and beliefs including that of all revealed religions who do not preach violence and killing of innocent people. For this, a deeper understanding of life is essential for its balanced/wholesome advancement and inter-faith harmony. We should accept diversity as natural and part of life. We may disagree with each other but in an agreeable manner. We need to share each others pain, sorrow and happiness. The next generations have to learn that the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not just for some but for the whole of mankind. Life is a gift of God, liberty ought to be the gift of man to humanity with happiness as our common pursuit not only in material sense but in the intellectual and spiritual terms also. Working together, we can actualize these ideals, hence charity for all and malice towards none can take us out of the quagmire of terrorism, fear and intolerance.
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Some of the ideas / words have been taken from the following sources: 1. Spiritual Growth by Sanaya Roman 2. The Power of NOW by Eckhart Tolle

3. Study of major religious teachings/thoughts.

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