Monthly Archives: November 2017

Tenant Owner

Tenant Owner

Tenant – Owner

An interesting incident happened recently which set me thinking about how confused we are about our feelings of ownership. The depth of this confusion is so severe that it wreaks havoc with the lives of tenants, sub- letters and everyone else who inadvertently gets entangled in the same web.

My sister and family visited us this Christmas and we planned a short trip to London. A friend graciously offered the key to her apartment, because they were travelling to India during that period, free boarding would be a real big help. Hotel expenses would have blown our budget out of proportion, with this option we could spend our ‘hotel money saved’ on frivolous ‘luxury shopping’ with impunity. All this planning began in September. Trying to accomplish anything in an unplanned, impetuous way does not work well; it is unaffordable and stressing. Blowing a budget in pounds seemed daunting and a setback we probably would never recover from. Thus, all the detailed planning and organizing, pre – booking etc.

About a week before our visitors were to arrive, our friend sent us this newspaper clipping. Their apartment complex was in the news. The tenant of an adjacent apartment sublet his ‘rented’ apartment to some boys, through online booking service.  He was away for 10days and maybe greed got the better of him. Without doing any background check, he rented it to people from his ‘own country’ which according to him was a safe option. To his misfortune though, those boys turned out to be rogues, dealing drugs and loaded with arms. On the third day, the neighbors heard gunshots and dialed for the police. The whole apartment was a mess, bottles strewn all over the place, carpet had cigarette burn marks and the place had an overpowering stench of vomit and urine!

The police put the whole apartment complex on a lock down, the residents were asked to vacate immediately and shift to some other place. My friend shifted to a nearby hotel, at his own expense and sent us this regretful bad news. Thus, for no fault of his, our friend was put to a needless inconvenience, so were the other innocent residents. Needless to say, we had to incur the expense of a hotel room, last minute booking, holiday season, everything went into a spin; out of control. And all this headache because someone (totally unrelated) got delusional about the ‘owner-tenant’ covenant.

The above narrative is all to do with worldly affairs and how our planned life goes into a tailspin because of some third party’s delusional thinking. From a personal perspective, I continue to make this mistake all the time! That’s the part which is more worthy of understanding and changing. My owner is my heart, yet all my decisions seem to be taken by the tenant, my mind; worse is, I identify myself utmost with my sub-tenant; my physical self. This mind (tenant) is a monkey, a monkey which ceaselessly sees a ripe banana beckoning to be plucked. The lure of profit, worldly success, a little name, a fake lottery ticket, everything is a lure, a ripe banana for this incredulously, self -deluded intellectual mind. It refuses to listen to the owner, and with time, the owner unfortunately becomes a mute spectator. The game goes on between the tenant and the sub-tenant, the tug of war in changing the sub-tenant to please the tenant and I wonder why this never seems to come to a satisfying conclusion!

Verse 44 (How does one gain freedom?) of Vivekachudami explains this confusion, and what ensues because of this perplexity, elaborately.  Sankaracharya says, ‘In the jagat, there are two things: nama- rupa, or names and forms, and vastu, the reality. There is a difference between them; nama-rupa is nothing but vastu but the vastu is not nama -rupa. The body is only nama-rupa but is mistaken for the vastu, the atma.….. In a clay pot the pot is nama-rupa and the clay is vastu.

This ignorance is at the root cause of all our problems. This identifying with the body and mind and becoming unaware of the eternal presence of the atman, forces us to make mistakes. These mistakes become layers and the ceaseless cycle of mistakes, layers, suffering and life after life commences.  In verse 45 (How to distinguish atma and anatma?) of vivekachudamani elaborates further with these profound lines, ‘Nobody says, ‘I am the body’, but one does say, ‘I am fat’. The attributes of the body are superimposed upon the atma. In the same way there are various notions like the prana being the atma, the mind being the atma etc. These notions are universal because ignorance is universal’  

Imagine the depth of our mistaken identification and obsession we have with our physical self, the sub-tenant! The growing number of beauty parlors, aerobics centers, short cut diet schemes are a testimony to our lack of awareness, or deliberate negation of this simple truth. We spend all our life adorning and pampering the tenant and sub-tenant, spend money, kill precious, irreversible time beautifying the sub-tenant, thinking it to be the owner. That’s the reason we are stumped when the tenant misbehaves. The tenant continues to give attention and keeps its focus on the sub-tenant, (the lure of temporary profit) and try as one might, pleasing this sub tenant is impossible. The owner is subjugated and bound by the whims and fancies of the tenant. And the tenant is intertwined with the sub-tenant. In the material world, the owner suffers because of a wrong tenant and the ways of an errant sub-tenant.

In our personal lives, the owner (our soul) suffers because of our obsession with the tenant who in turn is lassoed with the sub-tenant. This ignorance and confusion between tenant, sub tenant and owner has cost us not just this life, but maybe many lives in the past and probably many more to come in the future, yet we adamantly remain blindfolded. We continue to identify with the sub tenant and tenant; and remain unaware of the true owner’s existence.

Webbed Independence

Webbed Independence

I have always had, (still have) this independent streak in me. I try my utmost to accomplish every task solo; without bothering a single other soul. Not because I don’t wish to seek outside help or that I shy away from stretching my hand to ask a favour of someone. Just that, it has been that way with me; I need to do it all myself! With every passing day, a realization keeps showing its true face to me, teasing me about my illusory independent accomplishments. The verity is that life is rife with webs. We live a webbed life striving to achieve that elusive independence.

How can I be independent? Dependence begins with birth and goes on.  My mind is forever juggling more than one thought process, my heart is experiencing more than one emotion at a time and my physical self is an expert multi tasker, it barely ever shows one singular symptom at a point of time. One thing is dependent on the other within me, in me I have a web, and I am at the centre of this web, breaking free. Forget about my association with the world and its connections; that is a bigger, wider net and little introspection will reveal, that this is a web I can be free of, gain independence from; if I so choose to do so.

I never really gave all this much thought; because this independent streak always limited itself to doing things, accomplishing the worldly deeds and pursuits in a self-reliant way. That was my struggle and definition of being independent; breaking free of the web outside. Now, this independence is also a pseudo independent state, don’t you think? Because, everything I wish to accomplish, there are many interlaced events and people involved who have to participate on my schedule and whim, to bring the event to timely fruition; my way. This, I realised only when I came across many stumbling blocks in the recent past, and my daughter commented about how ‘my independent decisions’ were affecting her life and decisions because she is dependent on me!

Apparently, my interdependence was not as harrowing nor did I have to make any big sacrifices like her. Since I was too busy to commit to 2 days a week to collect her after school; she was forced to forego the exclusive choir group in her school (only 16 girls from the whole school were hand -picked and she was one of them). The poor girl swallowed the bitter pill with great equanimity, yet I was gently reminded of her sacrifice more times than I care to recall. And all this occurred because of her dependence on me. Ah ha! I thought, all this doing solo and not getting in the way of anyone else is a big sham; I am dependent on everyone and everything for everything.  And so is my poor kiddo! We are a part of this huge web and in that the only independent space is the individual space! All else is knotty and intricately knitted, well-crafted work of God almighty, so we cannot Break -Free! And thus, came my moment of epiphany…

My umpteen failed attempts to be regular with my blogs and posts is yet another example worthy of mention. The first step towards this was to be regular and disciplined; and this is where I have consistently boomeranged!  I had a finger in every possible pie; something pressing always took precedence and writing remained on the ‘to do’ list.  With dedicated prioritisation, I finally committed to one post per week, and then I realize I forgot to pay the fee for my website, and thus the website was inactive. So, I patiently wait and get that work done, then my editor gets busy and goes on a sabbatical, so another setback, unfazed, I decided to put up some poetry and unedited posts (at the risk of quality versus continuity) then my website goes on to some maintenance and is offline yet again! It was as if the world had conspired to stop me from being regular, try as I might, my interdependence would not allow me to accomplish this job ‘my way’. I was webbed; and I had to lump it.  This is just a very small instance, which I noticed because of my daughter’s comment. We all have such webbed moments, and I am sure the feeling of being independent is very illusory. Maybe that’s why the most common sigh we have in our moments of frustration is,’ Oh! when will I be free of all this!’

The above aberrations did not make me feel webbed; I could be independent and interdependent; this was the revelation I had. If I could be emotionally free, detached and unaffected, all the other webs (social and worldly) hardly bothered me for long. They were small speed breakers on the road, part of the journey, and probably imperative too, to maintain my speed, and help me see the view on the way. My daughter’s gentle reminder of ‘her sacrifice’ brought to the fore what I personally was trying to break away from; the emotional burden we carry for every action we take or escape.  The constant nagging and having to ask, seek permission, being judged, is what the heart wants to break free from; physically we don’t mind the dependence, on the contrary, we welcome it! It gives us a chance to pass the buck, and have a ‘shared burden companionship’ feeling. It is the emotional clutter that we hanker to clear and yet unwittingly latch on to.

Whenever I feel webbed, I clean the clutter of the house, throw unwanted things, clear the cobwebs, make a schedule; get things under control (as much is possible)! This external control over things helps me put a leash around my free- spirited thoughts and the clearing makes my heart ‘see’ better, I think.  I learn to enjoy the webbed independence state, independently.

Loneliness and Solitude

Loneliness and Solitude

Loneliness and Solitude

Recently, a friend lost her husband. A hale and hearty man waved goodbye to his wife and kids; went to work and it became the last time! He is no more; she has to live the remaining days alone; raise the children alone, fend for herself alone, seek companionship from within, the one closest friend has deserted her, with no warning, no preparation. She is amidst family members, friends who are helping her cope with her grief and loss, but for how long will this companionship serve to be an effective distraction?

Another friend lost her dad; a dad she dearly loved, who was a role model for her. She emulated him, looked up to him; would consult him for every small concern. How does one cope with the loss of some who means who more than life itself? Is it possible not to feel devastated; is it possible to move on? I don’t think so, forgetting is impossible, and being stuck and not moving on is not an option either! So, how does one cope?

My cousin was hospitalised and has just about managed to escape the clutches of lord Yama; she was battling for her life alone, in the ICU. On the other side of the door the whole family prayed fervently for her recovery, each alone with their thoughts and fears. Having witnessed a spate of such incidents with people near and dear, it has brought to fore this million-dollar question, ultimately; ‘Aren’t we all alone?’  It is moments like these which make me wonder; we crave company all our life, want to be surrounded by loved ones, why? Is it because we are afraid to be alone? Or is it solitude and what solitude entails that makes us afraid? We are always alone, so we cry about our loneliness and seek companionship, but solitude means that we acknowledge being alone, and at the cost of stunning the world (the world does not understand the difference between solitude and loneliness) we cannot pretend being sad because of our loneliness.

The Geeta explains loneliness and solitude beautifully; here is a humble translation: Loneliness is the biggest punishment in this world! And solitude is the biggest blessing/gift. These two words appear so similar, yet cannot be more apart, like heaven and hell. “Loneliness is suffering, and Solitude is relaxing. Loneliness is fear, and Solitude is peace/Shaanti. Till we look for solace in the outer world we will experience loneliness. But when you look for it within you, you start experiencing solitude. This life is nothing but a journey from loneliness to solitude. A journey, in which the path is us, the traveller is also us and so is the destination.”

Personally, I am in agreement with the thought that we are all alone, our attitude and experience of the word is what differentiates and gives it meaning, being alone or in solitude. Like it is so beautifully elucidated in The Geeta, alone or in solitude makes the biggest difference. Unknowingly we crave solitude but we are terrified of being alone.

My husband’s observation about me is that I keep insisting that I be left alone! ‘Don’t work from home, go to office so I can have my space!’ ‘All of you go, I will stay back.’ I am sure most of us, especially housewives like me, share the sentiment. We are hounded by our filial duties and a chance to get the house all to ourselves is a chance we would not miss for the world. We do not want this for long though, definitely not, juts for an hour or so, for us to be able to put our feet up, unwind. I also have this craving for being alone, and till I did not read the above explanation I never realised I was actually craving for solitude, being alone was as unsavoury as ever; but solitude is what the heart wants and longs for.

A very close friend’s mother is unwell for some time now, and is bravely fighting a losing battle. The whole family has surrounded her, trying to give her strength, courage and moral support, not just to the mother, but to the dad too, to be able to fight this battle. I speak to this friend every day and I sense that her parents are alone in all this. The presence of family members or the lack of it is a superficial balm to an inner wound which cannot be healed by any one. They smile for others sake, they pretend all is well, things are going to be better, but the verity cannot change just because we decide to wear rose tinted glasses. I sense that they are party to all the smothering they receive and yet experience profound loneliness. How can one let go or be able to let go of a partner of more than 50 years? The time when we finally learn to live comfortably with one another, seems to be the time when we may verily be alone, by one Self! Again, live alone or live in solitude? Probably answering this question may help make the right choice, allow the ‘let go’ to happen, give precedence to the loved one’s interests, cope with grief better? Solitude is what helps us live at peace with our Self, practice attached detachment and heal.

Transformative creativity is a constant need to change, every day of life, to last day.  Inner weather changes and we are unwilling to adapt. We need to be courageous to see my Self, which is possible only if we meditate. The subtle yet yawing difference between loneliness and solitude can come to light only through meditation, there is no other way.

Meditation is all about self-awareness. Being a true companion to the Self; praying for Nature’s forces to conspire and help us get better, make us better beings. Meditation has taught me the subtle difference of being able to appreciate solitude in those alone moments; moments which seemed dreadful earlier are matter of fact today, even joyful and insightful.