Saturday, February 7, 2015

Two Brothers and an Umbrella

There were two brothers in a family.  Their outlook towards life, its problems and solutions were entirely different.  Their views were often at conflict and they varied substantially. There would be frequent arguments between them about various issues that came up in day to day life. Elder brother believed in living for today and enjoy life as it comes.  Younger brother trusted in shaping one's life and plan for it.  They were fond of each other and the family ties were deep rooted. Despite their best efforts, they could not reconcile this difference in their attitude to life.

They set out from the house on their daily chores one day.  As they came out of the house, younger brother looked at the sky and said that it could rain later in the day. The elder one said that it may not rain and they need not worry about it.  Younger brother was not convinced.  He suggested that they carry an umbrella as it would prevent them from getting drenched if it really rained.  Elder brother did not appreciate the idea of carrying an umbrella.  "If you take an umbrella, you have to always think of it and take it with you wherever you go.  You have to constantly protect it and find a place to keep it when you sit, stand or move around.  It is such a big pain.  I do not want such trouble.  I want to be free wherever I go.  I am not carrying any umbrella", he declared.  The younger brother had his own argument. "Do not just think of the problem of carrying and keeping the umbrella with you. Think of the protection it gives you when it rains.  You will be miserable without an umbrella if it rains", he reasoned.

As usual they disagreed on the necessity of carrying an umbrella.  The elder brother walked away on his work without carrying an umbrella.  The younger brother went inside the house, picked his umbrella and went about his work with the umbrella in his hand.
In the previous post titled "The vicious circle" (Click on this to read it), there was a reference to life after death, re-birth and many births.  Nobody knows for sure whether there is some life after death  and whether there are re-births. There was also a mention about sharing one's material wealth with others in the society.  It also talked of credit and debit in the life's ledger and the balance one carries to the next world.  The story of the two brothers mentioned above is similar to that. Just as one does not know definitely as to whether it will rain or not, one does not know whether there is another life awaiting after death.  The society is divided into two groups just as the two brothers in the above story.  One group does not believe in rebirth and life after death.  This group believes in taking life as it comes and living for today. The other group feels that there is definitely something after death and there is bound to be rebirth.  This group does believe in leading life in a defined way so that they are able to answer The Lord when they stand before Him on the Dooms Day.  Such a belief is there among the varied religious faiths in the world. Of course, it is also true that there is a third group which does not have any time to think of either worlds, since the daily routine in the present life does not allow any time to worry about life after death.

The analogy of the "Two brothers and an umbrella" typically explains the conflict between the two groups.  The group that believes that there is no rebirth is like the brother who believes that it will not rain.  They live entirely for this life and are not worried for the future ones, as for them there is no future life.  All their actions are centered around this life; their belief leaves only this option.  For them, there is no use of doing anything for the next world which does not really exist. Whether they lead a good life or not is decided here. Chaarvaakas  (a sect that does not believe in God and rebirth) belong to this school of thinking.  "Drink Ghee (not eat Ghee) by even borrowing from others; where is the return of life when the body is burnt after death?", they ask.  Like the elder brother, there is no issue for them if it does not rain.  But if it does rain, they are exposed to hardship and get drenched.      

The second group that believes in life after the death and rebirth lives more for the future ones; their belief makes it mandatory for them to live with the eyes on future births.  They embark on a mission of safeguarding future lives that are not definite at this time.  They make many sacrifices in the present life to ensure rosy things in the indefinite future lives. Some of them are reasonable in their efforts; they do not sacrifice the present life at the altar of the future ones.  But there are others who take things too far.  They lead a miserable life presently for a wonderful anticipated future life.  Like the younger brother in the analogy story, their efforts are suitably rewarded if it really rains.  If it does not rain, all their efforts are a waste and they neither have the pleasure of leading a fine present life nor something in future as reward for the sacrifices made by them.

Which group should we choose to belong to, is the moot point.  It is a matter of personal belief and choice.  In financial terms, it is like taking insurance against a likely or unlikely risk. Probably, the key is in leading a balanced life that is neither too rigorous nor too liberal.  It appears wise to enjoy the fruits of the present life as this is definite.  There is no wisdom in sacrificing the definite present in favor of the uncertain future.  It is also fair to enjoy the fruits of the present life by sharing with others.  There is a limitation to all material wealth.  It should be used and utilized before the expiry date.  Better share them with others rather than allow them to decay with time.  There is a certain enhanced joy and pleasure in sharing what we have with others.  Sharing ensures happiness in the present life; it may also provide some insurance for the future lives, if there are any. 

Which school do you belong to?  Will it rain or not?  


  1. its good, agree that sharing defenitely ensures happiness.

  2. Excellent. Thought provoking and very meaningful......Sethuram

  3. Very interesting and thought provoking.

  4. The best thing to do is to live in the present. Forget all bad memories. Do not worry too much about the future Do good if you can but if you cannot at least don"t harm anyone. Live life happily and in harmony with nature and men. This is my simple Philosophy. To sum up take the umbrella if you are uncomfortable about drenching, do not take it if you like getting wet in the rain. It is as simple as that to me. Great writing as usual Mr. Keshava Murthy

  5. I belive in Enjoy Life Responsibly.
    Your enjoyment must never infringe on someone else's right/liberty/peace. But I endorse younger brother approach better Safe than Sorry.

  6. Excellent feed for thinking. Yes I strongly believe in "live for present" and any surplus share with others. Time is the teacher, healer and guide. Take things as it comes. Forget about a happening in future which is uncertain.

    Wonderful article with lot of inbuilt lessons for life..