Stop the Madness of Self-Discipline

Posted in Personal Development,Spiritual Stories by Anmol Mehta

The Art of Meditation: Personal Development and Spiritual Growth:

Everywhere you look nowadays the new holy grail of success seems to be self-discipline. From, diet plans, to sports, to the stock market, to the arts and also, most unfortunately, even in the practice of meditation, yoga and the related spiritual sciences. Raw material enters boot camp, is put through the patented regiment, and out comes a finished product. Discipline yourself to eat right, exercise right so you can get healthy, discipline yourself to sleep less so you have more productive time, discipline yourself to sit endlessly hour after hour watching your breath so you can gain enlightenment. Is this the way? Is self-discipline necessary? I don’t think so. Let me tell you a story…

Story: The War of The Rice Farmers 

In a small village far from the hustle and bustle of the city, there lived a rice farmer, Barbary Rao. He was a simple man and had a small rice paddy, which he would tend to diligently and which rewarded him with ample harvest to support his family. Now Barbary loved to farm. He was born to farm. He loved to hoe the land, build irrigation canals, study the weather patterns, research fertilizers, and most of all he loved his rice…. yes eating it also. He knew all about farming rice. From end to end he was an expert farmer. Barbary had also developed new systems to improve the quality and quantity of his dear crop and other farmers would often visit him and his farm to learn from him new techniques in de-husking, storage, aging, packaging etc etc. One such visitor was Coolun Das.

Coolun Das was from a neighboring village and he was a very strong man. His body was strong, his will was strong and most of all his ambition was strong. Coolun was eager for success and worked very hard to make his farm productive and profitable. He knew that Barbary was his main competition in the region and so worked very hard to learn his systems. One season, there was great excitement among the villages, that Barbary had developed a formula for new hybrid rice seeds that would double the yield of the harvest. Upon hearing this news, Coolun was very disturbed. What if Barbary refused to share the formula? What if he decided that this was too good to give away, as he had done with his other discoveries, and using it made himself the richest and most powerful of the region? Coolun began to have nightmares. So one night he snuck into Barbary’s farm and stole the formula and seedlings. Barbary was unable to reproduce the stolen formula and eventually moved on to other work.

Coolun utilized the formula and had a bumper crop that year and in the common market, where all the farmers would bring their crop and samples, he sought out Barbary to gloat. Much to his surprise and irritation Barbary was quite undisturbed by his success. Barbary congratulated him on having such a good year and began discussing with him new techniques in polishing that he was working on. Coolun wondered how come he was not as contented as Barbary. He decided it was probably due to the fame Barbary had in the region, so Coolun made up his mind to achieve greater fame than Barbary and thus greater gratification. Coolun knew Barbary worked very hard so he decided to discipline himself to work even harder. He started sleeping in the barn so that the dawn calls of the cocks would awaken him. He trained himself to eat only one time a day, so he would be even more time efficient. He learned to concentrate and work through pain, discomfort and fatigue becoming a non-stop farming machine. All that hard work brought him great success and in a few short years he became the richest and most famous farmer in the region. But alas, every year that he met Barbary in the market, he would be reminded that he was not the happier of the two.

Coolun tried everything, he had a huge estate built, purchased large farm lands, grew in political power, gave away rice to the hungry, all the time using great self-discipline to achieve these successes, but even when old and gray whenever he met Barbary, he know there was something he had missed. Eventually, they both grew very old and as luck would have it they passed away on the same day. In the line outside the pearly gates, Coolun and Barbary met again.  As usual, Barbary greeted him happily and began discussing the latest research on creating vitamin enriched rice. Finally their turn arrived to meet the Big Boss.

Once inside the Big Boss turned to Barbary and said, “Well done my boy, here come take a seat you need the rest.” He then turned to Coolun and asked, “Any questions?” “Yes,” Coolun replied, “How come you have asked him to rest and not me? I have worked just as hard, if not harder than him, throughout my life. Also, how come Barbary was always happier than me, even though I achieved so much more success, so much more wealth, power and fame?” “Well that answer is really very simple,” replied Big Boss. “You, Dearest Coolun, were meant to be a wrestler not a rice farmer. So your work is yet to be done. Off you go…” and with that Coolun was sent back down for another go.

Commentary & Analysis of Passion vs. Self-Discipline 

One of the most important things in life is to figure out what you really love to do. This is not always easy. What makes it harder is that what you love to do is not necessary what you want to do. You may want to spend all your time sitting around watching TV, or playing World of Warcraft, or golf. This does not mean you have figured out what you love to do. I am not saying you don’t do the things you want to do either, its just if you have not figured out what you love to do in life, you will do these things to escape from the tedium that your life will eventually become. So how can we figure out what we love to do in life? That is your first and foremost challenge and I have found the following questions to help with that process…

Questions to Help You Discover Your True Passion

  1. What is it that you like to do for its own sake, without any concern for reward or compliment? Do you like the joy of building things? Do you like to just create music? Do you like to teach? Do you like the challenge of watching your thoughts in action?
  2. If you won the lottery, I mean the really, really big one how would you like to spend the rest of your life?
  3. If you were informed you are about to die shortly, what would you regret most as not having spent your time doing?
  4. No matter where on Earth you are. In a rich, first world country, in the bush lands of Australia or high up in a Himalayan village what do you see yourself doing regardless of location?
  5. What activity do you always find yourself coming back to throughout your life?
  6. What activity can you just not see yourself doing without?

One important thing to remember is that nowhere am I saying that what you love to do is going to be easy. It may be very hard, very challenging, but what I can assure you is that you will do the hard work, with a smile on your face and not needing a shred of self-discipline.

The passion for the work will carve its own discipline. It is like a river carving its own banks, making its own path, no outside influence is required. Similarly when you are doing what you love to do, you don’t need to impose any external discipline. You just do what you love to do. Pay attention to the demands that the work makes on you and you will find your life being given great order by that.

Self-discipline being imposed from outside is violence. It is not born out of intelligence and the natural demand of the work at hand. You can look at it this way, either you are devoted to yourself and, like Coolun, discipline yourself through will to attain what you believe you need to succeed in life, or like Barbary, you are devoted to your passion and you do what it requires from you. One leads to frustration and one to contentment. Time to stop the ugliness of imposed self-discipline and embrace the path of wisdom and grace.


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94 Responses to “Stop the Madness of Self-Discipline”

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  1. 24
    Alex Says:

    I agree with what you’re saying, but not all of it. Having self-discipline is different than comptetition, self discipline, to me is the opposite of lazy, it is needed to get something done. Not too much is needed, just enough to get good results from something. Like in the story, if barbary had no self-discipline to think, he probably wouldn’t have come up with that rice forumula. Anyway, many things you said are very true, but i had to disagree on that one.
    Great Article

  2. 23
    Anmol Mehta Says:


    Thanks for your positive comments. I am glad you found the questions useful.


  3. 22 Says:

    The “Questions to Help You Discover Your True Passion:” are really great !!

  4. 21
    Anmol Mehta Says:

    Dear L,

    Thank you very much for sharing with us your experiences and thoughts.

    I don’t think I implied everyone needs Zen. I certainly don’t believe that either. In the above article I am indicating that the natural discipline that arises through doing what you love in the way to go, rather than the imposed discipline of simply ambition.

    Zen is a profound science and certainly one you should explore, but, given your state of mind currently I would suggest taking up Pranayama (breathing exercises as well). To help alleviate depression please try the following practice for at least a few months (as your depression is long term). This practice has proven to be very effective is helping cure depression.

    Kapalbhati Yoga Breathing Exercise

    In addition please do the following when practicing this pranayama…

    1. Sit in Gyan Mudra. Which means index finger and thumb tips are meeting and wrists are resting gently on the knees with palms facing slightly upward.

    2. As you do the exhalation engage your mind and visualize all negative emotions leaving your body.

    Please let me know if you run into any issues or have any question.


  5. 20
    L Says:

    Um… How do you know that everyone has a passion, though? I am extremely frustrated with my life right now because I have no self-discipline, and I haven’t found anything that makes me happy every day or even most days. I am always depressed, and I always have been. One of the most frustrating things is that I seem to do nothing with discipline, even things I enjoy. I know many things I will always go back to, but nothing I feel competent in. I feel incompetent because I lack self-discipline and confidence. I haven’t yet taken up Zen, but I intend to. It seems I need a new way of looking at life. And let me tell you this, I disagree with you that there is one solution for all, or else you’d better tell me how your solution pertains to my life. I don’t believe everyone needs Zen… Some people just naturally enjoy life, and it has nothing to do with whether or not they have found their passion. They were happy children before they found their passion. But what do I do, I who have never been happy? I think of killing myself every day, many times a day…

  6. 19
    The Personal Development Carnival-May 6, 2007 (Live The Power) Says:

    [...] Our next presenter is Anmol Mehta from Mastery of Meditation, Enlightenment & Kundalini Yoga Anmol says this “Article explores the value of self discipline and how to live a fulfilling life. It includes a story to illuminate its main points.” Stop the Madness of Self-Discipline is a Must Read! Very enjoyable post! [...]

  7. 18
    Anmol Mehta Says:

    MDB – Thanks for your inspiring feedback, glad you are enjoying the articles.

  8. 17
    MDB Says:

    Absolutely Amazing and very insightful. I love your stuff. Thanks

  9. 16
    Anmol Mehta Says:

    Rod – Perhaps now is the time for goodness to blossom in the fertile land of the heart… or maybe… just the paddy fields are calling :-)

  10. 15
    Rod Says:

    Oh dear, all the more striking to read, since what I really want to be is a farmer… and I’m not.

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