Free Press Journal

Factors that influence our attitudes in life

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Social influences, overwrought emotions and environmental factors impinge upon human minds. Consequently, individual behavioural patterns become complex and often antipathetic in nature, writes RAVI VALLURI

The Mahabharata is one of the greatest epics essayed in the subcontinent, perhaps in the world; it is believed to have been recited by the sage Veda Vyasa with Lord Ganesha himself playing the role of meticulous scribe.

The saga captures variegated attitudes and heterogeneous characteristics of humans in both the gross and subtle form. Human attitudes and standpoints emerge in all shades of the spectrum, rather than in simple black, white and grey. This makes the chronicle an endlessly fascinating read as it mirrors the human mind and its attitudes in entirety.


Seeking to establish concord between the Pandavas and the Kauravas and hoping to mend fences between the warring cousins is Lord Krishna himself. As the spectre of devastation and apocalypse loomed large over Indraprastha, Lord Krishna embarked upon a peace mission. Narayana decided to broker non-aggression and non-violence between the factious groups.

Attitude is all

In the Hindu pantheon, the Holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva reign supreme. Lord Brahma typifies the creator; Lord Shiva epitomises destruction, while Narayana or Lord Vishnu symbolises protection.

Lord Krishna, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu decides to test the waters and mollify the ego, arrogance and anger of the Kaurava scion- Duryodhana. Daruka, the charioteer of Lord Krishna was restlessly and impatiently in attendance as the Lord seemed to take inordinately long to don his apparel. Daruka was edgy and atwitter as he charged in to the chamber of the Lord and remarked, “O, preserver of the world, what is taking you so long to commence the journey to meet the demonic Duryodhana?” Lord Krishna replied impassively, “It is a ponderous event for radiance to meet tenebrosity. I have to metamorphose, the self conceited and hubristic attitude of Duryodhana to save the world from cataclysm.”

Social influences, overwrought emotions and environmental factors impinge upon human minds. Consequently, individual behavioural patterns become complex and often antipathetic in nature. The mind gets filled with cobwebs and nugatory thoughts and human attitudes towards self and others become ossified and prejudiced.

Duryodhana’s mind was prejudiced against his cousins and this attitude was fuelled by his scheming uncle Shakuni, sibling Dushasana and bosom friend and ace archer, Karna.

This is a stereotypical behavior which is usually accompanied with dislike and hatred towards some individuals or groups. Prejudice gets translated into discrimination, the behavioral component whereby humans behave less charitably and less positively towards a targeted group. Shadows of animosity cloud clarity and the mind and the attendant attitude becomes extremely vengeful.

History is replete with humungous examples of such discriminatory practices. The genocide committed by the Nazis in Germany against the hapless Jewish populace is a singular and extreme example of how prejudice leads to hatred, discrimination and mass extermination of sections of people and humanity.

Compassion: an efficacious attitude

Aeons ago an estimable Zen Master assembled several monks and novitiates for vigorous sessions of meditation. During one of these sessions a tutee was caught stealing by his colleagues. The guilty was produced before the Zen Master and all those present demanded the he be expelled from the Temple of Knowledge as an exemplary punishment. The Zen Master ignored the entreaties of the monks.

Once again, the pupil was caught stealing. This angered the assembly of monks who demanded that the culprit be recompensed so that it had a salutary influence on all the inhabitants of the monastery.

After much deliberation on the issue by the Zen Master, he decided not to take any action against the guilty tutee, much to the chagrin of the other inhabitants. The Master proffered that culprit could not distinguish right from wrong, whereas all the others through their breathing and meditation practices had evolved into information giants.

“I cannot forsake this mentee, as he needs my help the most, you all have evolved,” said the Master. The guilty tutee was overwhelmed with emotion and fell at the feet of the Master. His querulous desire to thieving disappeared and he promised to turn into a champion human being.

The consideration and compassion displayed by the Master was singularly responsible for this change. The positive attitude generated efficacious thought process in the monk, who transformed into a better individual. Besides, other monks and neophytes at the Temple of Knowledge learnt to alter their attitude towards the recalcitrant monk and in the process became better persons too.

Psychologists opine that the inclinationand slant of humans is immovably wedged in by certain predominant factors like the actor-observer effect (how individuals react to situations), arousal by various stimuli, attribution, balance maintained in day to day operations, centrality of attitude and impact of various social factors and externalities. The attitude of Duryodhana was impacted by the ambience in the palace. The architecture of his thought process and his actions further shaped the attitude of his father, King Dhritrashtra and the other principal actors in the Kaurava ménage.

Likewise, the Zen tutee was overwhelmed by the tenderness and benevolence shown by the Master and he mutated into a better human being by eschewing the act of surreptitious pilferage.

Essentially human beings are social creatures and need to interact with and relate to others. This in turn shapes their attitudes and behavioral patterns. Individual attitudes evolve through continuous learning process. Xenophobia and fondness are a result of various occurrences and their influence on human mind. Impression formation takes place in a systematic manner and is exhibited as decent or indecent behavior. Arousal, external stimuli, fear and apprehension have a far-reaching impact and cast an extensive leverage on human attitudes.

However, universally it has been observed that people respond to others in dire straits. This reflects that man is essentially a social animal and responds positively to those in any misadventure.

The illustrious American business honcho, Harold S Geneen was to famously say, “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitudes and in action.”