By Suma Varughese
Since all is one, the best way to ensure that we get what we want is to give it generously.
Reading Eknath Easwaran’s book, Strength in the Storm, I was struck by a sentence: ‘Everyone seeks gratitude, respect, understanding: we feel starved when we’re treated otherwise. But what actually starves us is not showing gratitude, respect and understanding to others. This is the surest sign I know of that all of us are one: by giving to those around us, we nourish ourselves as well.’
The truth he points out is not new. It is the fundamental truth of the universe. We are one. But by following this thought to its logical conclusion, he links it to the New Age understanding that we should give in order to get.
To me this suggests a whole lot of possibilities. I am currently facing a small health problem. What this suggests is that instead of obsessing about my illness as is my wont, and feeling sorry for myself, I need to focus on the health of those around me. I need to take care of ailing family members, offer financial assistance to sick patients in hospitals, create awareness of health by writing about it and in every way create health around me. When I do that I will automatically ensure my own health, for since we are one, the more health there is in the universe, the greater is my share of it.
Of course, I also need to take responsibility for my health, and do what I can to heal myself. I cannot be heedless of the way I eat or live and still expect the universal storehouse of health to work for me. Self-responsibility has to be a given for the rest to work.
This understanding resolves many things that used to puzzle me. How is it that so many mothers recover so fast from illnesses that would otherwise take a week or so? How is it that my own mother is today a fairly robust 87-year-old who still takes care of my household and me to a great extent? It is because their concerns are outside themselves and on others.
It also explains how so many doctors cope with epidemics and contagious diseases without being struck by it. Their external focus gives them the medical insurance they need. As for those who do get infected, it seems logical to assume that they were not able to free themselves of the self.
The more self-centered we are, the more we deprive ourselves of universal nourishment, and therefore the more ‘starved’ we feel, as Easwaran observes. It makes so much sense. A leaf is nourished by the sap of a tree. If it were to focus on its own health, it would turn away from the life-giving sap and therefore doom itself to destruction.
Carrying this to other aspects of life, it means that if we want success in exams, the thing to do would be to spread knowledge to all around us, teach people for free, give our friends the benefit of our study and so on. Think of how different that approach is from what prevails today. Instead of the intense competition between students and the covert attempt to be one up through various nefarious means, there would be openness, transparency, good will and security. If everyone were to secure the other’s success, no one would have to worry about their own.
This logic could well be applied to the practice of business too. In order to succeed and do well, we need to actively ensure the success of our competitors. For instance, Coca Cola ought to actively further the interests of Pepsi and vice versa! Star TV should strive to ensure the success of Zee and vice versa. Of late, I have found that most corporate offices have such tight security that only a swipe card can open doors within and without the office. This creates an almost prison-like ambiance. I am told industrial espionage as well as Mumbai’s recent high profile terror strikes are responsible for this. If they would adopt this strategy, they could allow themselves to breathe and keep doors open once again as they earlier were.
For us seekers panting to attain enlightenment, it means that we need to focus on the enlightenment of others, rather than ourselves. We need to generously spread the insights granted to us, acknowledge those who are ahead of us instead of secretly reminding ourselves of their weak points, and be available to those who need assistance. The more we conspire to enlighten others, the greater the chances of our enlightenment.
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