Friday, 17 April 2015

Is the world a shop or a temple?

Some of us believe (so much that it’s second-nature) that commonsense dictates that we must give no more to the people of this world than we absolutely are compelled to. This commonsense also dictates that we must take everything that’s on offer to us, and then some. Gujaratis have a name for it: it’s called Vaniya-buddhi… which roughly translates as ‘trader mentality’.

While I understand where they’re coming from — a worldview that holds that there’s no room in society for naive people — I cannot help feeling that a worldview that’s as open to loss as it is to gain is infinitely superior. Let us give it a name. We could call it Brahmana-buddhi – the mentality of a Brahmana or a priest, because it implies the willingness or even eagerness to sacrifice to the Gods. (However, please please let’s take away the casteist edge of that term; even a Shudra may have more Brahmana-buddhi than someone descended from seven generations of certified Rishis!)

I believe (and I refrain from quoting scripture here because I really believe it, and don’t need no authority tellin’ me it’s true) that the world, and our mind full of desires, is like one big Havan-kund. All our actions, good, bad or ugly, are sacrifices to the various Gods. Not all Gods are Sattvic, some of them want blood sacrifice, liquor, squalor etc. We keep willy-nilly feeding the fires of the world with our actions, and our mind with efforts to fulfill our desires. It’s one endless race to keep the fires fed.

And the fires keep throwing out (besides all the smoke and heat that we experience as worldly discomfort of various sorts) all sorts of things, good, bad and ugly. Intangible stuff like pleasure, contentment, displeasure, discontentment… all the stuff that really looks insignificant, except that these are the only things that we really live for. I mean, nobody eats to fill up his belly; he eats to feel pleasure or contentment. However, depending on what he feeds the fire in his belly, he will experience a particular mixture of pleasure/displeasure or contentment/discontentment. Given that these little things add up over the years, you have either a corpulent man with a sour temper or a healthy man with a sweet temper… or anything in between!

Your wife’s desires for good clothes, a good home, love, children etc are sacrificial fires. That’s a given. What you feed these fires however depends on you; and based on what you feed them, you will receive marital satisfaction or otherwise. Ivariably? No, maybe in some degree, maybe even not at all.
Why? Because it’s not a direct payback… which brings us to another dimension to this anology: all that you enjoy arises from your sacrifices. And what arises from sacrifices is not directly related to what you put in. It is prasada — something arbitrarily given. 

When you go to the temple, and you buy some modaks, coconuts, sweets etc. to put before the idol, you could jolly well carry home the entire coconut and unopened boxes of sweets. Lekin Bhagwan ko dharaye bina voh prasad nahin banta… You have to sacrifice it, you have to break the whole coconut and accept some part of it back… whatever the priest gives you. Many of those who bring no coconuts and sweets will also go home with handfuls of the stuff, and you, who may have spent a lot of money to buy these things, will go home with substantially less than what you paid for. But you have the satisfaction that it is prasada, which is something intangibly but infinitely more than the stuff you purchased from the shop.

The rule of Vaniya-buddhi does not work in a temple, just as Brahmana-buddhi does not work in a shop. 

So, is the world a shop or a temple?

Do you work for yourself, and live for yourself and your own people? Do you live by commonsense alone? Do you feel that you have the undisputed right to all that you buy, all that you possess? Do you feel that it is of utmost importance to avoid all unnecessary loss, and to avoid being taken for a ride by anybody? Then maybe you live in a world that’s a shop. And maybe it really is a shop for you.

Me, I like to think that I live in a temple where even the donation-box is not locked, and where everything that I use is just temple-trust property, not my property. I like to think that I have no reason to worry too much about the comings and goings of money and other goodies from what looks like my personal domain. I like to think that at many levels, I’m living on the largesse of  others, anyway, and that when they take something away from me, they knowingly or unknowingly take what’s theirs anyway. 

I like to think that even when I give a doorkeeper an unnecessarily large tip, it’s his money that I’m returning back to him… Like, “Hey, no need to feel grateful, fella… Thanks for letting me keep your money in my pocket for so long!”

So is the world REALLY a shop or a temple? Maybe it’s REALLY a shop, and I’m one of the world’s born suckers. But that’s fine… I’m ok with making that mistake… and look, I’m not exacly on the verge of bankruptcy, an I? The worst that anybody can say about me is, “What a sucker! It’s easy to con this guy!”

But you know what? I’d hate myself if it is REALLY  a temple, and I lived in this temple like some shopkeeper, exercising all my vaniya-buddhi! Now THAT is a mistake I’d like to avoid at all costs. Because… imagine eating temple prasada  all your life like it was some silly sweet stuff you bought from a cheap shop! Uh-hunh, no way, I’m gonna do that to myself, dude!

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