Jurmi Chhowing feels the pangs of selfishness
The Bible says Give and Ye Shall Receive. The word Charity has taken on a somewhat condescending context in that those receiving are somewhat lesser. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Being charitable is to help, and helping is not an experiment conducted and confirmed in the lab; it’s as humane as a human can become.
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness” is what the Dalai Lama keeps giving, no doubt encouraging and giving us a message that is also in very short supply at the moment. It’s simple yet the message is emphatic – be kind and see what happens.
The pressure of becoming a successful person of the material variety is more than a burden; it’s a ceaseless push that keeps pulling the root of our being. We lose a bit of who we are everytime we shun, dismiss or ignore those in less wholesome circumstances working on the notion of losses and gains or under and above.
The material is immaterial and conversely, the immaterial is material. Kindness in giving and giving kindness shouldn’t be a means to an end. It ends as soon as you give and giving itself is the means.
The kind of kindness inherent in mankind takes a beating. Buddhism bases a lot of its teaching on compassion and the practice of that compassion. Without that element, the chants are dry and hollow, and burning butter lamps is a waste of precious resource and keeping incense alight and burning would be nothing more than just that. A smoky affair at best and a potential burn at worst.
The winds blowing the prayer flags would hold no meaning were it divorced from generosity of spirit.
Is it any wonder that in the twilight of his years, a man is wont to sit down and go through the memoirs of his time? Is it also any wonder that by then the ravages of time has played their part?
It does not matter one bit or more whether your contemplations are taking shape sitting on a velvet cushion or squatting on a hard floor.
It makes a mockery of yourself. You drive a vehicle that costs more than anything an entire village could save in a lifetime and yet you bark at the Parking Fee Collector
for charging you five or more.
There is nothing wrong in becoming successful but there is something amiss when success is planted and bred on the altar that keeps taking without giving.
In the end, your action and kind of being is what is remembered more than what you’ve had. Every body that has come and lived and now passed on leaves behind their humanity more than their riches and the will. The people you’ve known don’t come decked in their finest. They come in shapes and forms that define the essence of being a human being.
A smile, gestures of kindness, warmth, sadness, humor and the like that reminds you of their inherent goodness rather than the reversal. Such remembrances come about, as that is the kind of legacy one would want to leave behind.
Whether it was designed or spontaneous becomes useless speculation without weight.
No matter what their circumstantial existence, the dearly departed are always remembered for their goodness. We manage to forgive the transgressions and the mirror through which we reflect upon them is also the very reflection through which we’ll be remembered.
Something inherent in us yet seldom demonstrated happens; we manage to stop making judgments and instead learn to give forgiveness. But it shouldn’t take a death to see this simplicity nor when a person is ill, redeemed, poor or incarcerated. Needless to say, if wrongs have been committed the need for a humane approach is all the more necessary.
It’s no mystery to see that folks who are happy, content, humble and grounded all have this singular quality of giving. As in all other force of habits, such giving without the thought of circumstantial calculations of survival becomes as natural as breathing when practiced on a daily basis.
Look around you and within yourself of the times you’ve felt good about yourself without vanity, deceit or such notes and it will invariably come down to the help you helped render with no interest in return. Giving does not imply the material; its more a release of the goodness and decency that lies embedded in all beings and is reciprocated more often than not in return- from nature itself to animals and mankind.
A smile costs nothing. Respect costs nothing. Decency costs nothing. Understanding costs nothing. Tolerance costs nothing. Giving the other the benefit of any given doubt or suspicion costs nothing. And the beauty that lies hidden shines and comes forth in terms of the goodwill you generate and the reciprocity you receive.
The sun shines without asking. The moon tides and waves without asking. Stars glitter with no bearings. The oceans take whatever’s thrown into it. Rivers flow, mountains sit and the dark clouds come showering the monsoon.
A firefly’s glow takes away your low and flowers bloom without asking. The fruits of these gifts are timely. See a tree and you’ll know, if not an anthill or a beehive.
Nature gives and without a fuss, teaches how that is so.
These are incalculable and as such, bear a meaning and a sense of satisfaction beyond the measure of science or value in the quantifiable market. If the meaning of life is a question the answer is already contained within- to first give it meaning. This approach is made solid by giving. Detachment as opposed to attachment is the art of giving at its highest level as opposed to discarding.
It can sound cold and forlorn but it’s anything but that. When a person is free of his being, the emotion within, the ego of ignorance, he becomes free in the most liberated sense. Such folks carry a spirit of non-attachment that gives meaning to the mundane things of daily life.And something splendid happens. You sense and taste a state of mind far more relaxed and rooted than you’ve ever known.
In the end you are really helping your own sense of self and what it means to be selfless. Hence the prayers of gratitude and the revelation that everything under the sun, the moon and the celestial is there to help and aid you in knowing and becoming what was always within- the birth of the dormant seed of the compassionate Siddha.
You reap what you sow, and giving works just like that as everything else does.
The beginning of the peeling process of the onion in you starts like that. One must skin it off to see the existence of nothingness till it’s required no more.
Now you can work with something or anything, knowing that in the grand scheme of things, every little gesture helps give meaning to matters that may be slighted or folks that are marginalized.
We do get by with more than a little help from everyone and everything we ever come to touch. We are mirror and reflection, flesh, bones, blood and spirit and the sown seed from the earth to the hearth.
If one knew this, the harvest will be shared and when a barren spell abounds, you get by with more than a little help.
All the Joy the World Contains
The question of belief has always been a source of confusion for me. Most of my life I have been torn between a deep longing for certainty and an equally deep skepticism. At times the ability to convince myself of vast, un-provable notions was kind of soothing, but the relief was usually short-lived. The truce with pessimism-bordering-on- nihilism was a very tenuous one. My outer life mirrored this conflict as I went from one extreme to another — sometimes aspiring to mystical otherworldliness and other times living in the nightlife music world not far removed from the criminal.
I did my best to cultivate belief but could only come up with what Alan Watts once called a "belief in belief." The real thing remained elusive. Brief glimpses of beautiful, inspirational meaning would slowly fade into boredom or sorrow at the state of the world — and even cynicism. It came as a great shock to discover that my real spiritual problem was not a product of the world's condition, but of my own self-centeredness. I caused hurt and sorrow to those closest to me by living my life with my own gratification as the guiding principle. The old cliché that experience is the best teacher proved itself to me with a vengeance. For some of us, it seems, experience is the only teacher. I had to learn the hard way.
I went through a few years of just getting lost and more lost. The drugs, the sex, the alcohol: It sounds like a lot of fun — that is, if you don't figure in the remorseful hangovers, the depression or the loneliness that is both the cause and the effect of the whole vicious circle. I went far enough down to have to either change or die. I basically managed to break my own heart.
But people are capable of learning, and learning that I had no wisdom on my own finally opened the way for me to learn from those who did. I was given a second chance. I found that what I once considered empty platitudes are actually descriptions of fact. Jesus said, "It is better to give than to receive." I now know that to be the case, not by faith but by experience. I finally discovered the beautiful, paradoxical truth that genuine concern for the welfare of others is the gateway to the only real satisfaction for myself. I cannot claim to consistently live up to this ideal, but it is with genuine gratitude that I can say I have come to believe the words of the Indian philosopher-poet Shantideva:
"All the joy the world contains / Has come through wishing happiness for others. / All the misery the world contains / Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself."