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.