Dacher Kelter, psychology professor at the University of California Berkeley has a new book called the Power Paradox. In this book he outlines parallels between behaviors he has seen in research labs and modern world corporate America. The book is is an eye opener to those who believe in gaining power through force. Dacher shows that our power is granted to us by others. People gain power by improving the lives of others. Our power goes simply as far as what others are willing to let us have over them.

What is more interesting are the following observations which he makes. People forget the fact that power which one gets by improving the lives of others is what brought them money and status. Unfortunately, many get stuck to money and status. This is the dark side of power. We can see the dark side in play in society, politics and stardom. Dacher has received kudos for original research on the topic of power. What strikes me most is the parallels between his conclusions and how ancient Rishis conveyed the power paradox in form of stories.

Asuras are mythical beings in Purana stories. They strive hard through Tapas to gain blessings. Blessings bring them enormous powers which Rakshasas start misusing. One particular story is apt in the context of Dacher’s descriptions of the dark side of power. There was once a kind Asura king, Taraka, who helped the citizens with charitable deeds. The name Tarak means one who pulls someone out of their misery. He gained enormous power which took him to the dark side. He insisted that every benefactor should acknowledge the help that they had received. He repeatedly reminded them of the help he had had given them. He was so persistent that people became annoyed. It soon reached intolerable levels where everyone felt the weight of their debt to Taraka.

Taraka was killed by Kartikeya or Murugan. Murugan is the ultimate representation of innocent, childlike vigor. No other Deva could vanquish Taraka. Their powerful weapons were no comparison to the enormous power which Taraka had gained through charity. Taraka realized his lack of control over his own boastful qualities. He was happy to rid himself of his negative qualities even if it means getting defeated. His brother Surapadman was not easy to give in to Murugan. However, that is another story which depicts yet another dark side.

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