Of ‘Vishu’, a bartender and a lesson in “not wanting”

Learn to not want anything – and you will just live happily ever after!
There’s a lot of festivity in the air. Many parts of India are celebrating a New Year – Tamilians are celebrating Puthu Varsha Pirappu, Malayalis are celebrating Vishu, Assamese are celebrating Rongali Bihu – and in Punjab they are celebrating the harvest festival, Baisakhi. My favorite is Vishu. For it reminds us, first thing in the morning, how abundant our lives are. The fruits, vegetables, grains, the lamps, the mirror in which you see your own reflection and that of the assortment of nature’s bounty – all of these are a way to celebrate abundance and be grateful for what we have. Vishu meant a lot to me as a child because I would get Vishu Kani Nettam (a small amount of money that elders give people younger than them) from a lot of people and each year I would make a princely fortune on this day. Over the years Vishu continues to inspire me. It invokes in me a great sense of gratitude for all the abundance in my Life – despite anything material remaining with us in the past few years – and, importantly, it has taught me the power of “not wanting”.  
Not having something and not wanting something are not the same. Not having something is reality. Wanting something that you don’t have is desire. And desire always fights reality. When you fight or resist or argue with reality you suffer. If you examine your feelings carefully you will realize that all your suffering is over wanting what you don’t have. If you don’t have a job that you like, that’s reality. There’s no suffering there. Suffering sets in when you start pining for a better job – something you don’t have right now! Similarly, you don’t have a car. That’s reality. Again the lack of a car does not cause any suffering. You suffer when you start wishing that you have a car – which is when you fight your “no-car reality”! The key to get rid of suffering is to drop all desire, to stop the wanting.
Vishu, in a way, while helping you celebrate abundance, teaches you how to stop wanting. The very fact that you can see such a beautiful display of fruits, vegetables, flowers, grains, first thing in the morning, that very moment is a blessing. It means you have eyes and can see! It means you have a home. You have someone – a mother, sister, father, brother, grandparents – someone to set up this display for you. Isn’t that a sign of abundance? There are many, many people out there in the world who don’t have these blessings – eyesight, a home, a family! A bartender in Hartford, Connecticut (USA), reminded me of the value of this blessing some years ago. It was Vishu in India. And I was alone in my hotel room. (Owing to the time difference, it was Vishu eve in that part of the world, but about the same time when Vishu Kaniwould be seen by Malayalis back home.) I decided to go down to the bar. A couple of drinks down the line, I discovered that the Indian bartender serving me that evening was from Kerala. I pulled out a US $ 10.00 note and gave the young chap his Vishu Kani Nettam. He was in tears. He insisted that I move with him to the rear area in the bar so that he could touch my feet and take my blessings. I obliged. And gave him a hug too. He said, “As long as I was at home in Kerala, I never valued all this. Now, miles away, at the other end of the world, I realize how much all this means – thanks for your blessings! I will always cherish them.”
Your Life – just as mine – is filled with abundance. We, however, miss Life’s beauty and magic, and all the abundance there is, because we are lost running our rat races, and we are busy wanting all the time! When we realize, like that young bartender, that there is so much we have that we don’t value, that we don’t recognize, that we don’t celebrate, then we will drop all the wanting. When there is no want, there just is – only happiness!

‘Ahimsa’ by you is the way forward for the world!

The way forward for the world is ahimsa. And it begins with you and me.

When something like the Connecticut killings happen, you stop for a brief while, shocked and numb. You mourn and then move on. Your own Life demands you attention and then the next big news story takes over. The candlelight vigils and the debates of gun control abate, while you return to the job of earning a living. It is not that you don’t relate to something that happened several thousand miles away, but you feel you are helpless.

This is precisely where you, me, all of us, must think differently. We are not helpless. We can do something. Beginning first with each of us.

That first step is understanding ‘ahimsa’. In his phenomenally insightful book, ‘Gandhi The Man’, published first in 1973, spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran, invites us to consider ‘ahimsa’ in terms of our world family. He goes deep into Gandhi’s thinking and discovers that both Gandhi’s personal transformation, from man to Mahatma, and the key to his political strategy to oust the British from India were built on ‘ahimsa’. Easwaran writes: “’Ahimsa’ is not the crude thing it has been made to appear,” Gandhi tells us. “Not to hurt any living thing is no doubt a part of ‘ahimsa’. But it is its least expression. The principle of ‘ahimsa’ is hurt by every evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, by hatred, by wishing ill to anybody. It is also violated by our holding on to what the world needs.” So beautiful. Understanding ‘ahimsa’, therefore means, knowing that we must expunge every violent thought and emotion when it rises within us.

To do this, take the second step. Of using ‘ahimsa’ to further the flowering of inner awareness of continuously being loving – a state that each of us is capable of being in. Osho, the Master, says we are unable to be in that state forever, though each of us at various times in our lives will attain that state for a brief while, because we are busy holding on, possessing__things, opinions, negative emotions and debilitating memories of past hurts! Says Osho, “The more you possess, the less you can love. And love is the door. Or, the less you can love, the more you start possessing.” So, the trick really is to let go of anything which is a violent thought. For instance, someone betrays you and you want to get even. Every living moment of your becomes violent because your thoughts are full of anger, revenge, hurt and suffering. ‘Ahimsa’ gives you the ability to forgive, to let go and to become love.

The third step is to take your love and share your love with everyone you connect with. Which goes beyond your immediate family, your immediate circle of friends, your immediate community. Be love and loving to everyone you see, meet, speak to __ at work, on the metro, in the line at the grocers. To everyone, everywhere. When each of us can be this way, be love and be loving, we will be able to change the world too. From possessing to letting go. From hatred to love. From anger to peace.

Enforcing gun control laws and hanging terrorists may only address the problem or perhaps just its symptoms. Only love, and a world that is loving, can address what causes people, and therefore the world, to go violent.  Speaking to students at Danbury, Connecticut, a few weeks ago, the venerable Dalai Lama delivered precisely the same message. “Prayer and meditation without action is not enough to bring peace to a hurting world. Happiness very much depends on inner peace. Inner peace very much depends on happiness. And change in the world begins with each person. “Who should start” to bring peace to the world? The “individual person” … not religious leaders, not the United Nations, but each of us,” he said. “Then, from one person to 10 persons, 100 persons, 1,000. So I think any sort of movement among humanity … must start from the individual.”

Simply, therefore, if the Connecticut killings shocked you too, then let’s go do something about it. Through understanding and practicing ‘ahimsa’, let’s nail every violent thought that may arise in us. Through doing that consistently, let us allow our true loving self to flower from within. And let that love bathe our world in a new light!