06.17 – Plans may not work, but planning works
“My plans never work, so I have decided to give up planning.” We may think like this when our plans to balance our material obligations and spiritual commitments get disrupted repeatedly.
To avoid such rash conclusions, we need to understand the difference between plans and planning. Firstly, plans are specific, for they relate with the how-to-dos of a particular thing; whereas planning is generic, for it relates with shaping the direction and pace of our life. Secondly and more philosophically, our attachment to specific plans can reflect our desire to be God, to be the controllers of the world around us so that we can eventually be its enjoyers. We can never be God, but that doesn’t mean we have no control at all over things. The philosophically mature understanding is that we are subordinate co-partners with God; we can control things to a limited extent. The very fact that God gives us prescriptions and proscriptions the scriptures indicates that we have or can have the basic level of control necessary to choose our actions. Cultivating the habit of generic planning helps us tap this level of control, whereas becoming attached to specific plans causes us to overstep beyond our quota of control.
The Bhagavad-gita (06.17) points us towards generic planning when it urges us to avoid extremes in eating and sleeping. It doesn’t mandate any specific quantity of food or sleep, for that may vary according to psycho-physical (adhyatmika), social (adhibhautika) and environmental (adhidaivika) factors.
By cultivating the habit of generic planning, we can understand how much control we realistically have on psycho-physical, social and environmental factors. Accordingly, we can allot room for ad hoc factors so that they don’t become disruptive.
Over time, practice in generic planning will help us learn the delicate and dynamic material-spiritual balance.