How Humans Punish Themselves and Each Other
|Shyamu with his son Golu in the garden|
By chance, this morning, I examined the dining room cupboard that stores various items of crockery, cups and glasses etc. that are used on special occasions. The crockery that we use on a daily basis is kept in the kitchen. Probably more than five years have passed since I gave the contents of this cupboard a good look. To my surprise the cupboard has much unnecessary stuff, some that will probably never be needed during my lifetime. The story is not very different in the other cupboards, closets and stores of my home. Fortunately, the home is large enough so that all the stuff can be stacked away neatly, out of sight, and not cause clutter. I am also fortunate enough to have an extremely efficient domestic aide – Shyamu – who takes care of storing everything neatly and retrieving an item whenever required. However, now I am beginning to question the very basis of having acquired all the stuff in the first place. Everything that one possesses occupies a portion of one’s psyche, even if ignored. It is an unnecessary burden that one can do without. I do not deny that there are some advantages in owning stuff. One can produce the right cup or glass for the right occasion when the occasion arises – once in five years. It is also true that one does not have to run down to shop for more when an item of clothing or linen gets worn out. Another brand new set is found in the closets to replace the discarded item. But then, crockery can be improvised for an occasion, even a plastic cup would do and a home should really not be a shop. If a particular glass or cup is needed for a rare occasion it is not too hard to make a trip to the store once in ten years. Storing it at home means that the cupboards have to be cleaned and dusted carefully every so often. Rebb, has mentioned in her blog, how she has dealt with clutter wisely – just discarded it.
In contrast, one may envy a Buddhist Monk. His possessions are no more than a light cotton shoulder bag with which he can move from monastery to monastery scattered across the scenic Himalayas. It is not so with just monks. The newspaper recently carried a story of a highly successful financial analyst who possesses no more than a suitcase. He has to travel frequently and these meager possessions serve him very well as he moves from one hotel accommodation to another or a furnished dwelling for longer sojourns in a city. He is always nearly as well dressed as a Buddhist monk because he discards his crisp white shirts for new replacements as frequently as he can. The Buddhist monks too find clean new robes hanging on pegs outside the baths in their monasteries, whenever they need one. Another group of specialized monks manages that chore as all share in the duties of running a monastery.
Reflecting further on the rationale for my acquiring assorted possessions originally, I realized it was because of the widely held social belief that a happy home is one filled with stuff. With experience however, I realize that nothing can be further from the truth and that the Buddhist monks who proclaim that possession tie a person down and compromise happiness are right.
There are also a number of other beliefs that humans have propagated with gusto in order to punish themselves and each other. For example, a common blessing of one human to another they love is that they should have a long life – May you live for a hundred years. A good deal of money is spent on research and potions to enhance longevity and countries with the highest longevity figures are touted as those having the best quality of life. Observe a small child or infant though, and you will find how delighted they are with life and every new thing that they discover. My year old grandson (Shyamu's son) squeals with delight at every visit to the garden. Every flower, piece of stick, bird or insect he spots is an object of wonder and Joy to him. However, with every passing year this natural joy diminishes for a majority of humans. Certainly there are exceptions because every human life is different, but in the majority of cases the younger the person the more joyous life is. With advancing years come many sorrows, diminished energy and health so that for the very long lived persons even simple tasks like a visit to the toilet becomes a chore. In reality we do not bless anyone by wishing them a long life but rather punish them. If one believes in reincarnation, or a second life, as most mystics and spiritually inclined persons do, then the justifications for a long life are even fewer. It is best to enjoy the nicest parts of dinner on a plate and move on to a fresh plate rather finish the unpalatable side dishes.
In an earlier post I described how humans are afraid of heart disease and how the medical industry makes a great deal out of this fear. In reality there could be no bigger blessing than a person who leaves this world for greener pastures after a sudden heart collapse during sleep or otherwise. The alternative for others is to suffer a prolonged illness, pain and eventual cardiac arrest, as inevitable as the fact that we ever lived. Does it make sense to have a cardiac arrest after much pain and agony or suddenly without any pain or warning? Is heart disease a blessing or a curse?
Human Societies also make much virtue out of hope and expectations. Proverbs such as, “ where there is hope there is life” are widely circulated. Spiritual wisdom on the other hand suggests that at any given moment everything is exactly the way it should be and happiness lies in contentment. Expectations are the route to sorrow. Accordingly, the right way to live is to engage oneself in performing perceived duties and doing the right thing at all times, leaving the results and outcome in the hands of nature and expressing gratefulness and contentment with the decision of the Universe whatever it may be. Certainly one may come to the intelligent conclusion that a different outcome would have been preferable but then the route to it might be making a change within rather than without so that the universe leads one to a different outcome of an effort made.
The voice of the spiritualist is a voice in the wilderness.
More on the psychological and spiritual impact of our possessions is here