This I Believe

Mehta, G. L. (Gaganvihari Lallubhai)

  • G.L. Mehta describes his belief in the importance of peace of mind, attainable through humility, patience, perspective, and a sense of humor.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. G.L. Mehta is India’s ambassador to the United States and to Mexico. He is one of India’s leading shipping men with a warm humor and an extensive knowledge of international economics. He was on the first Indian planning commission in charge of industry and trade and, for a time president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce. Here now are the personal beliefs of Ambassador G.L. Mehta.
I have come to believe as a result of experience that qualities of mind are more fundamental in life than any doctrines—that feelings are more vital than formulas. In the ultimate analysis, it is how we conduct ourselves and how we behave that matters, not so much what we profess and declare. And our conduct depends on our mental attitude and our feelings, our convictions, our likes and dislikes, and also a conception of our interests.
To me, peace of mind seems more important than exercise of power or material success. Let me hasten to add that this does not imply a cult of poverty or renunciation of wordly goods. It would be gross hypocrisy if I said so.
What I mean is that I would not care for anything if I felt that I would not be inwardly happy by having it or being in it.
We cannot live in harmony with others unless we are at peace with ourselves. Different people, no doubt, feel happy in different ways and in different degrees. Our own feelings of happiness might also vary from time to time and may change as we grow older. But fundamentally, we are to have sufficient inner harmony before we can achieve anything or even live usefully. And in order to do this, we must not expect too much of life. The world was not made for us, though in our egoism we think so.
We must therefore cultivate a sense of proportion about men and affairs.
This sense of proportion would teach us a certain degree of self-restraint, moderation, and even a spirit of resignation in respect of things which cannot change and which must be endured. We must not presume that whatever little we might have achieved, it could all have been the result of our own efforts. I’m all the time conscious of the fact that what little I know is insignificant compared to what I do not know. I am aware that we can, if we will, learn something from everyone, and that we should be somewhat modest in trying to teach and preach. We should be less strict in judging others and less lenient in judging ourselves.
Above all, this sense of proportion is the obverse of a true sense of humor—a sense of humor which enables us not to take life too seriously or to give trivial things undue importance. Only experience can cultivate such an attitude. And it can come if we do not fret and fume at the slightest provocation and do not exaggerate our own importance in the scheme of things. In other words, this demands a sense of humor. All human endeavor being short of perfection, we can afford to laugh at ourselves for our inability to achieve it.
We are for a brief moment in this world beautiful, yet sad. In a short time, we must make the best of it, not merely in the sense of enjoying what is best in it, but also by spreading cheerfulness and joy as much as we can by bringing some ray of hope to others. Life is too short, I feel, for quarrels and intrigues, for bitterness and malice and hatred. I must confess I do not have the spirit of the crusader, the zeal of the reformer. It is enough if in the course of my own insignificant life I can, to some extent, imbibe some of the qualities which I value.
That was the personal philosophy of G.L. Mehta: industrialist, author and Indian Ambassador to the United States.