Why emptying your boat, choosing to be a nobody, makes sense

A Chinese philosopher teaches us the value of being a nobody.

Chuang Tzu, a.k.a Zhuangzi, a Chinese philosopher who lived in the 4th Century BC, has written a poem called The Empty Boat’. Here are relevant excerpts from that poem:

If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty.
He would not be shouting, and not angry.

If you can empty your own boat
Crossing the river of the world,
No one will oppose you,
No one will seek to harm you.

Who can free himself from achievement
And from fame, descend and be lost
Amid the masses of men?
He will flow like Tao, unseen,
He will go about like Life itself
With no name and no home.
Simple is he, without distinction.
To all appearances he is a fool.
His steps leave no trace. He has no power.
He achieves nothing, has no reputation.
Since he judges no one
No one judges him.
Such is the perfect man:
His boat is empty.

Picture Copyright with Original Owner

The moral of the poem applies in all situations to all of us in Life. Most of the time we are reacting to imaginary perceptions we have of people. We feel slighted or hurt when people say something. We feel such people have motives. We conclude that everyone does something good to you, or to anyone, only if they see a gain for themselves in it. If someone is very nice to you, you begin to wonder why they are that way. We analyze people and situations in a zillion different ways to see if there isn’t any catch or any fine print that we are missing in any transaction or relationship. All this hyper activity in our mind makes us all very edgy, suspicious and causes us to suffer!

So, one way to rid us of all this wasted energy is to see ourselves as nobodys – as empty boats. And treat others also the same way – as empty boats! If you can empty your boat, if you can lose all your cravings and trappings of power, respect, recognition and ego, you too can be free and sail through Life – experiencing its beauty and magic – with no grief or suffering! No one can react from an empty boat nor can anyone react to an empty boat! Period.

Simplify your Life: choose not to be bothered if you are alienated

Don’t attach any importance to any thing or any individual. Because when they are gone, as is sure to happen some day, you will be miserable.

12407283_1682967285322631_1106338545_nYesterday, we attended a Cinema Rendezvous screening of the documentary ‘A Life in Metaphors’ made on noted film-maker Girish Kasaravalli. After the film was over, people were in conversation with Girish. He talked about how it is important for a film-maker to express through images how a character is feeling. And he said the feeling of being alienated by one’s own family or community or society was the most painful one to endure; it is intensely personal and, therefore, very difficult to portray on screen. Someone then asked Girish if not being appreciated on social media or not appearing in Page 3 coverage in papers was a sign or way of being alienated in our times and in urban society? Very deftly, Girish avoided answering the question. And spoke only about the feeling of alienation his protagonists’ have felt and depicted in his films. I think Girish made a significant point by not answering the question directly. Which is this: looking for social media acceptance or approval and recognition among the Page 3 community is a sign of shallowness, of lack of evolution and maturity.

Alienation that happens to an individual by an act of abuse or social excommunication is never controllable by the individual. So, maturity demands that you remain detached and don’t attach importance to what others do to you. Now, in urban society where social media and Page 3 culture have become necessary platforms for expression and visibility, the same principle of detachment must be practiced. Just as it does not matter what caste or creed you are – and so being excommunicated by a society that is stooping below the humane shouldn’t matter – it doesn’t matter whether you are ‘liked’ on social media or whether you are included or excluded in the Page 3 circuit.

There are two points to bear in mind to keep Life simple – first, what others think of you is of no significance to what you can do; and second, everything, including you, will perish over time, so stay detached and never grieve over losing anything. Surely, you cannot control or avoid being alienated but you can always choose not to feel sad for being alienated.



Don’t fall for the bait and get attached to outcomes – stay detached!

Stay detached from the outcome of your efforts and you will be at peace. Detachment really means to be unmoved in any situation – success or failure, victory or defeat.

Picture Courtesy: The New Indian Express/Internet
Team India’s Captain Cool, M.S.Dhoni, reminded us yesterday, yet again, why he is such a rare human being, player and leader. After India’s comprehensive defeat at the hands of the Aussies in Sydney in the 2015 ICC World Cup semi-final on Thursday night, Dhoni said: “Of course we are disappointed not to be in the final, but then only one team can win. Australia played better cricket today (Thursday). The Cup did not belong to us. We took it from someone and someone else will take it from us. If we had played better cricket on this particular day, we would have won.” This is the simplest, most logical explanation anyone can give in any situation like the one India finds itself in – they played a great World Cup campaign, winning seven out of seven games until losing in the semi-final. Also, when you do badly and lose a game, there are only learnings, never justifications. And finally, staying detached – as Dhoni is and has always been – from the outcome is the best way to preserve and nurture your inner peace.
Indeed, like sports, Life too is competitive. But no matter how hard you work, and how ethical you are, there will be times when you will not get what you want or perhaps even deserve. And there will be other times when you will be successful. In either situation, stay detached. Remember this: Life happens through us, never because of us. So, when we succeed at what we are trying to achieve, stay unaffected by the accolades. And when you fail at something, or rather when someone else succeeds in your place, choose again to remain unruffled. In the game of Life, someone will necessarily have to win. And it need not always have to be you!
To be sure, however, on the spiritual plane, success and failure, victory and defeat, mean nothing. Everything is transient, everything is a mere experience, and if you pause to reflect deeply, everything is an impermanent illusionary experience! So, don’t fall for the bait and get attached to outcomes – stay detached. In any situation, you have only your efforts to focus on and count on. Here’s how you deal with your efforts:
       Good efforts and you succeed at the task – take it easy
       Poor efforts and you succeed at the task – take it easy
       Good efforts and you fail at the task – take it easy
       Poor efforts and you fail at the task – take it easy
Take it easy every which way. Learn every single time. Remember this too: as Dhoni recounted and the Bhagavad Gita says, “Nothing belongs to you. And nothing will be with you forever. What is yours belonged to someone else yesterday and will belong to yet another tomorrow!” So, stay detached. Stay in peace.

Possessor or possessed?

Are you in possession of something or is it in possession of you?
So very often we get attached to things. Every attachment fuels a desire to control. To possess. To own. Unknown to us, we end up being possessed by it! There are people who are worried about their status and prestige in society. To them, being humble, being ordinary, being vulnerable is suffering because they are constantly worried about what others will think about them. They no longer earn their status, they are controlled by having to keep it! Some are attached to their property, their car, their phones, their desks, their cameras and sometimes, to their opinions. Even attachment to an idea can cause suffering.
For instance, some have an idea that they will be happy subject to certain conditions being fulfilled. So, if those conditions are not met, they will be unhappy. This applies to habits too. Are you owning a packet of cigarettes or is it owning you__when you are in a no-smoking area and your mind is on the packet with you and on your craving to smoke, it is controlling your every thought, isn’t it? There’s a poem that describes The Buddha thus: “The Buddha is like a full moon sailing across an empty sky.” Meaning that The Buddha’s happiness was immense because he possessed nothing.

When our mental landscapes are full of things that we possess__ideas, material objects, opinions, habits, worries__we are no longer in charge of our lives. When we let go of every single thing we possess__physically, literally, figuratively and metaphorically__we will be blissful. This does not mean abdication. This means remaining detached so that we too can sail with abandon in the beauty of this wondrous Universe.

It is best to be in a constant “let go” mode

When something gets taken away from you, let it go. If it’s a person who chooses to leave you, let that person go too. When you let go, and don’t cling on, you will not suffer.
I was neither a good giver. Nor was I able to detach myself from things and people and opinions. But, over time, I have learnt how important it is to simply let go. I have been a voracious reader all my Life. And had been collecting books. My collection spanned management-related books and those that dwelt on spirituality. I was meticulous with my collection. Each book was wrapped in plastic (to serve as enhanced protection) and neatly indexed. I had over 550 titles – a great collection of management and spirituality books built up over 20 years. Just 550 books in 20 years? – The number actually shows how discerning I am as a reader and how unique my collection was! And then, a day came when we had to close down our office. Our home did not have enough space for me to move these books to. I had to make a choice. Either I took the books with me and let them use up precious living space at home or I just gave them all away to someone (I know) who runs a training company in Bangalore. I chose to let go and give away the books. I called this person up and he readily agreed to accept all the books. He was setting up a library in his new office and this was a timely gift. All the books went into several cartons. When the consignment left my office, I felt heavy in my heart. It was as if a part of me was getting taken away. The person who received my gift of books called me a “magnanimous” giver. I am not sure I am that, but I could make out that I had learnt to be less attached with things through that action. 10 years ago, I would not have been able to do this. But now I believe I have developed a higher level of detachment from people, things and opinions.
Being detached does not mean you don’t care. It doesn’t mean you must not love or desire someone or something. It means you must transcend that love, that desire – which creates your attachment. It means that you must “see” the truth about Life that no one really owns anything, no one really controls anyone. When you are attached to something or someone, you are all along fearful of losing that something or that person. Fear debilitates. Instead if you simply, deeply, loved that something or someone and accepted that while your love is pure and you enjoyed (the act of) loving, you also know that you can’t always have that someone or something. If it is a person, the person will eventually be separated from you – most certainly by death, some day. If it is a thing – like a car or a gadget or even money – know that all things, including money, are impermanent too. Things will break down and have to be discarded. Money will too someday become either inconsequential or unavailable in your Life. So, being detached, really means understanding Life for what it is. And using your understanding of Life to accept it for what it is.
You suffer whenever you are attached, and often refuse to let go, of people, memories, opinions and things. The more you let go, the more you be in a constant let go mode, the more you will be at peace with yourself. In a let go, there’s just inner peace – and no suffering ever!

Detachment – the key to Inner Peace

Sometimes, Life will take away what you love and want most – could be people or things. You will find it very, very hard to accept that you don’t have that someone or something anymore. But it is only through a loss that you learn about Life – and its transience.  
On a lighter note….!!!!
Everything that you are I have has been acquired during the course of this lifetime. When you were born you came with nothing. When you die you will go with nothing. Your name, your education, your titles, your fame, your money, your assets, your relationships – everything was got here, on this journey called Life. When your Life ends, you will leave behind everything. This is the way Life is. Yet, if you examine your emotions closely, you will find that all your grief and suffering comes from your attachment to all those very things and people who you will leave behind. It is at one level so evident, so basic. That all that you cling on to cannot go with you. But even then you hold on to all that gives you grief?
There’s an old Persian story. A fakir who was wandering in the desert stopped by at the Amir’s inn. The fakir had nothing but a worn-out flowing garment on him held together by a rope strapped around his waist. The Amir was moved by the fakir’s plight and gave him his best velvet robe as a gift. The fakir accepted the robe, wore it and went away cheerfully. That night the fakir stopped to rest under a tree. He decided to roll up the velvet robe and used it as a pillow. But he could not catch sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he imagined that bandits were attacking him to take away his robe. He tossed and turned and even sat up for a few hours. But his mind was full of fear of being robbed of his velvet robe. Finally, he took the robe, flung it far away into the darkness, and went to sleep. He slept for the rest of the night like a baby – soundly, peacefully!
The velvet robe is but a metaphor. It symbolizes all that we are attached too. Unless we learn to detach ourselves from everything – absolutely everything, including people – we will never quite experience inner peace.