I had heard the story of Naranath Branthan, a legend from folklores of Kerala, during my childhood days.
Naranath Branthan was known to be a strange man who works hard entire day, everyday, pushing a big rock to the top of a hill. The rock was so hard, and the hill was too steep that even as he pushes the rock up, it slips down a few steps. Yet when he reaches the top eventually, he rolls it down laughing, he himself coming down with it at times
This story is somewhat similar to that of Sisyphus of Roman mythology. Key difference here is that action was not imposed as punishment as in the case of Sisyphus but rather an act of his own will.
This act looked ridiculous to onlookers, and they called him mad (Branthan), unaware of the message behind this apparently meaningless act. Popular interpretation of this strange behavior is that he is making fun of mundane human life wherein we work hard day long in the hope of a bright future, without being conscious of death which is ever too close. Though I have heard this interpretation quite many times, I could never reconcile to it. I consider it as a defeatist argument.
I believe in human spirit and human effort. I believe in compassion without which philosophy, and even life itself, is meaningless. I think the conventional interpretation misses a fundamental point. A point that life is vibrant spirit. A spirit of awareness. A spirit of pure consciousness. A consciousness full of benevolence and compassion.
Notice that, what Naranath Branthan has done is not to idle his time away or preach but rather act. He has taken up a goal which is hard to achieve, evertday, and work hard to achieve the goal no matter how formidable it looks. Once it is achieved, it is history and, therefore, leave it behind and move to the next goal.
The real problem in life is that we are dragged down by memories from the past and bogged down by fears about the future. What we need to renounce are these baggages, not actions, and live everyday with new life of its own. Live everyday setting new goals and working diligently towards it. A simple recipte for success in everyday life just as modern self-development books and programs suggest, right?
Death is an ever present reality; so what? What we see as truth is not, so what? Goals that we work for every day is transcient, so what? I think the whole point is not to unduly worry about, or be concerned about these, and to live the moment NOW in its full glory.
Live the moment with self-belief and conviction in what we stand for. All great achievers be it Sankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Thomas Alva Edison, Albert Einstein, etc have done just that