Give without expectations. Receive without limitations.

We are continuously interdependent on each other: either giving or receiving all the time. All of us. Each one of us.

In fact, we are but servants of humanity, serving each other, unknowingly, unwittingly. Without the neighbor that you hate so much because of the way he blares his heavy metal music all night, you cannot understand the meaning of peace when the noise stops. Without the boss who breathes down your neck, you cannot understand the meaning of working under pressure. Without the guy who keeps proposing to you despite you declining each time, you cannot understand what it means to be wanted by someone. As servants we must therefore be humble and grateful for a. the opportunity to serve and b. the opportunity to receive.

However, we struggle with this concept. Sometimes, we don’t want to give__time, money, advice. At other times, we don’t want to receive__because our ego comes in the way. Learn for Nature, exhorts, spiritual guru, poet and artiste, Sri Chinmoy (originally, Chinmoy Kumar Ghose 1931~2007). He says: “The flower gives nectar. The bee gives pollination. The bee receives nectar. The flower receives pollination. Independent nobody is __ we just fool ourselves.”

Let us celebrate this spirit and the reality of interdependence by having a servant-like attitude to and in Life. Give without expectations. Receive without limitations. Only when we are giving and receiving freely, without inhibitions, without keeping count of what you did to others and what others did to you, do we feel completely fulfilled in Life. 

The art of living is truly about the art of giving…

The spirit to serve, to give, is embedded in each one of us. At the core, all of us humans, are created compassionate. Yet so many of us struggle to give. Because we are worried fundamentally if we will have enough for ourselves. Or we wonder if our support will indeed reach the right hands. Or, at times, we simply don’t have the time to pause and reflect on the plight or travails of another human being, a fellow voyager who is perhaps braving a storm, having a torrid time in Life.

There’s this story of the Zen Master Ryokan, who used to live in the mountains, all by himself. He led a frugal existence – sustaining himself by begging for alms and food in the village at the foothills. One day, he returns from his evening walk, to find a robber in his barren hut. Instead of being angry with the robber and raising an alarm, Ryokan tells the robber that since he has nothing else to give him, he will be happy to give him his robe, the only piece of clothing he has on him. The brazen robber receives the robe gleefully and goes away. Ryokan sits naked that night on the floor of his hut looks up at the moon in the sky, through his open window, and wishes he could have given the robber the moon too! Ryokan personifies the pristine spirit to give, to serve without bothering about the rational consequences of such giving, without expecting anything in return.

We may not have Ryokan’s temperament in us in today’s world where we are all engaged, and entrapped, so materially! But we can raise ourselves to come up half-way, to touch a Life, to make a meaningful difference.

Yesterday, someone we only know as social acquaintances, whom we have never met, reached out and held out a helping hand, gave us a shoulder and a long-distance hug. In the context and situation we found ourselves, it made a huge difference. This gentleman and his wife live in a different continent, miles away from where we live, and yet they took the trouble, the initiative and the interest. “We are doing this with the attitude of seva. Don’t say thank you. We feel happy being useful,” they said.

Seva, in Sanskrit, means to serve without expectation. It means to be selfless while giving. I have understood giving in similar terms as the ability to give when you don’t have to be giving, but you still give, because you want to give.

Let’s be inspired by Master Ryokan’s story and this wonderful couple. Let’s pause and hear the story of a beating heart today. Maybe someone needs our time. Maybe someone needs a hug. Or someone just needs a hot meal. Let’s not wait to be asked. Let’s look around and see what people around us perhaps need – most often it is stuff that they are too shy to even ask for. And let’s give ourselves selflessly. We will find a great quality of inner peace arising within us. Because then we will have discovered that the art of living is truly about the art of giving!

Give freely and joyously

It was the American writer and lawyer Albert Pike (1809~1891) who memorably said: “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

Yesterday, I heard a story. There once was a very wealthy man who was very attached to his wealth. He had this bizarre idea of taking all his wealth with him to ‘the other world’ after his earthly sojourn ended. He advertised in the papers that he was willing to offer half of his wealth to anyone who gave him an idea that will “ensure” that he could take all his wealth with him to “the other world” when he died. People who saw the advertisement thought the man had gone loony. Many days passed and not even one person contacted the wealthy man. His advisors and friends told him that no one ever will because his was such a bizarre expectation. And then, about four weeks after the advertisement appeared, a man called up claiming he knew of a way this could be done. The wealthy man immediately agreed to meet him. The caller set a pre-condition for sharing his idea. He insisted that half the wealthy man’s fortune be immediately transferred in his name before he gave away the idea. The wealthy man evaluated his options and concluded that since no one else had even come forward, the only way he had even half a chance of taking at least half his wealth with him when he died was to agree to the caller’s condition. So, the transfer deeds were done, the bank transfers were completed and the two men met in the wealthy man’s home for the ‘idea’ to be shared.

The caller said: “Sir, just as your country’s currency will not be valued in another, and so just as you have to take foreign exchange with you in lieu of an equal amount of your local currency when traveling overseas, you have to enter into a unique exchange agreement if you are to take your wealth with you to ‘the other world’. That exchange agreement requires you to give away all your wealth to help the poor and the needy. For every cent that you give away, you will get a credit of one goodwill point. Those points will be directly credited into your ‘other world’ account . You can’t see the account while you are here. You can access your goodwill account only in ‘the other world’. If you carry out this advice of mine you can be sure of getting goodwill credits that are equal to your wealth on this planet!”

The wealthy man simply agreed to follow the caller’s advice without protest. He gave away the other half of his wealth joyously to the poor and needy. When he died, his whole country mourned and millions showed up at his funeral. The foolish but rich man had ended up doing good by giving freely, albeit inadvertently.

Surely, we are not foolish. We do get the moral of this story straightaway, don’t we? For, what of ours have we brought with us and what will we take away? Everything that we think belongs to us is impermanent, including our Life. So, let’s give joyously. Through our giving selflessly, freely, we can make a difference, we can touch another Life! That is the only true wealth we can ever claim to have earned in this lifetime!

To make the world better, give and forgive!

The world can only be made better by giving and forgiving.

I rediscovered the meaning in practicing this truism again this morning. On the street I saw an old lady stumble and fall on the pavement. She was struggling with the weight of several bags that she was carrying. It was a busy morning. I was rushing off to catch up on work. But I flagged down an auto-rickshaw and requested the driver to pick up the lady from across the road and take her to where she would have liked to go. I gave the driver some money and asked him to call me if he had to go a longer distance and pick up any extra cash from me later in the day or tomorrow. The driver, who belongs to the redoubtable, unreasonable and unruly clan of auto-rickshaw drivers that terrorize public transport in India, replied: “Sir, thanks for giving me the opportunity to serve. I will take care of her, wherever she wishes to go. I will make up the difference in fare, if any!” As she rode away in the auto-rickshaw, a strange sense of peace and joy rose within me. I had had a pretty rough morning and much of it was centered around what we didn’t have and magnified by one individual on my team who was making Life miserable for all of us. Yet this one opportunity to serve, in a sublime and sure fashion, made me feel infinitely better. Re-energized and feeling good that I had been useful, despite my circumstances that had made me momentarily bitter with my Life and world, I forgave my colleague for his transgressions. I realized that if I had to behave the same way as he was doing, it would leave both of us scarred. I resolved to give the situation my understanding. It may not change anything in the short term but definitely makes me feel good and useful as I write this.

Try this approach to give and to forgive. I guarantee that you will feel the same way as I do.

When things get snatched away from you and when you feel betrayed, let down, hurt and pained, the natural response is to protect what’s left with you and to be wary of everything and everyone. But such a restrained existence will only make you hurt more.

The first sense of insecurity in us comes from whether we have enough for our own survival. So it is not that we don’t want to give. We do. But what prevents us from giving freely is the fear that what if we needed what we are giving away and we don’t have enough of it! The truth is we will always have enough and be provided whatever we need by the Universe. To be sure, we will never be denied our own needs. So, give and give freely. Without inhibitions and without expectations.

Forgiving too involves giving of a different kind – your understanding, patience and love. If you understand that we are all the product of the time we go through, you will realize that people behave differently from you because of what they are suffering from and going through.  If someone is causing you pain, you are perhaps inclined to believe that they are conspiring against you. And your reflex action is to hate them. To want to have nothing to do with them. But if you make a sincere effort, you will realize that their behavior is an expression of the anguish within them. What they need is your understanding, and not your hatred. Forgiving does not mean subscribing to someone’s despicable behavior or forgetting what happened. It means just letting go of all the negative energy that may be pent up within you, by giving the person in question your understanding and being compassionate.

When you give and forgive, especially when you are not expected to, you may well not be recognized or celebrated. But you will discover the joy of being human. Isn’t that a celebration enough in itself?