Develop the ability to stand in the throes of everyday Life situations and be peaceful.
Yesterday, on a busy street, I found a man sleeping peacefully on the pavement. It was rush hour. Traffic came from all directions. People honked mercilessly. The din was unbearable even within the air-conditioned Uber I was riding. As the traffic choked for a while, I kept looking at the man on the streetside, on my left. He didn’t appear drunk. He must have been in his 60s. He had a thick woolen blanket covering him. The temperature must have been 35 degrees Centigrade around then. Rather unusual, I thought, for someone to cover himself with a woolen blanket. May be he was sick. A half-full, one-litre Aquafina bottle stood beside him. Two-wheeler riders came perilously close to falling over him as they balanced themselves against the narrow pavement on which he lay. But the man went on sleeping. There was a certain peace about him. An equanimity that was unmissable. I didn’t want to intrude on his privacy so I did not take a picture of him.
The irony was not lost on me. Here was a man, perhaps surely homeless, whatever may be his physical condition, who was at peace with himself and his Life. And here are so many, many people searching for inner peace all around them. Isn’t it strange, I thought!
The very fact that we search for “inner” peace outside of us should tell us that we have got it all wrong. Which is why we find our peace so elusive! Second, anything that we seek that is impermanent – all our material wants – cannot get us to anchor in peace. You may want a car today. But once the car arrives, you will lose your peace trying to protect it from getting dented on our unruly Indian roads. Then when it is dented you will grieve over your insurance claim not being enough to fix it. Over time, you will want a bigger car. And so the quest for satiating yourself with material things is an endless one. When you tell yourself that you will be peaceful, happy, when you have this or that, you are actually kidding yourself. Unless you drop all your wanting and just be, you cannot be peaceful, you cannot be happy.
This is an irrefutable, unalterable truth about Life. The faster you internalize this truth, the sooner you will anchor in peace and the happier you will be. The man sleeping on the street is but a metaphor for all of us. He invites us to pause and reflect. He reminds us that anyone can be calm in their bedroom or in the protected confines of their homes. But can you stand in the midst of your battle-ridden, stress-laden Life and be peaceful? If you can be that, in whatever context Life has placed you in, then, and then alone, would you have found the greatest secret there ever is to Life! Which is this: the ability to sleep peacefully, regardless of circumstance, is the greatest wealth, the greatest blessing!