Off late I have come to realise that the only natural way to live is to live from the stance of giving. Any thought, action, or enterprise done from any stance other than the attitude of giving, is destined for a breakdown, sooner or later. To explain my point I hereby delve into a thought experiment on some common aspects of our lives.
1. Eating – Food can be eaten by man, coming from two attitudes – taking, and giving.
The “taking” idea focuses on the sense of self, and how much a person can “consume”‘ or “have”. It is about being a typical consumer, busy in satisfying their senses, whims and fancies with he best deal out their in the market. This attitude is further fuelled by the existing capitalistic set up, of the contemporary world.
Going deeper into this state of mind, it shoes up that this stance is very individualistic and disharmonious. Man is not concerned about his body and it’s various parts. When it comes to food, what just camouflages his entire rational thinking is the sense of taste and gratification he is about to force on his tactile senses. More of the reptilian brain is at work. Man ends up to over-eat, and also hogs on inappropriate food, just because it is tasty. The tongue overrides all the concerns of the body. Man is so busy in his selfish concerns that he becomes deaf and blind to the plight of his own body! Obesity and other food related diseases result.
The other stance is about showing up as a “giver”. In this scheme of things, man sees his body as a conglomerate or nexus of several highly complex and delicate forms of individual lives – his body parts and the complex system inside, all having their own individuality and uniqueness, and also who are at the same time working fully integrated to serve him. For him, he comes from a state of gratitude not only to his body parts but also the entire system both inside and outside his body. He is mindful of the trillions of the species of microorganism inside his body, operating in the order of his DNA contributing to what he feels and opines at a given point of time. He is also mindful of the external environment to which is exposed his beloved body. He is aware of the stresses, strains, temperature, light and moisture.
For him, his body is like the woman with who he is in love, and for whose well being he holds himself responsible. The feeling is not entirely patriarchal. Combine with this feeling is also a sense of profound gratitude in him for his body of being able to support his life. He is inquisitive of learning more about his body, and it’s impact on various conditions.
From this stance eating is more like giving nourishment to his body. Eating becomes a creative act which the man partakes to give the best to his beloved as a gift of love. For him, taste as well as health becomes part of the same package. He cannot even imagine taking in food that is harmful to his body. He cannot even think of overeating, as he considers that a disrespectful gesture to his beloved, treating her as a trash can. In this stance of giving, he ends up having a healthy diet habit, which is not only sustainable for him, but also for the entire ecosystem.
2. Love and Relationships – any relationship, be it professional or personal goes a long way, when considered from a stance of giving. This gives an opportunity to the man to rise above the mental chatter of his own head, and get into the predicament of the other to understand and empathise with the other. This not only opens ones own mind, and gives him that opportunity to see his own self from the eyes of the other. This enables him to understand his own self better, out of its inconsistencies and follies. He grows, and explores life more. In his book, “The Art of Loving” Erich Fromm goes into details of this stance. He rightly says it is not about “falling in love” , rather it is about “standing in love”. He insightfully articulates love as not an emotion, but a capacity of man to be able to relate to his fellow man, in truth. Marx hints this repeatedly in many of his works talking about man’s “alienation” and being able to be in love with the other as the only way to live as a free and potent human. He labels a man inflicted with the disease of “taking or having” as a crippled man. He further postulates that through creative and spontaneous activity a man is able to relate to other in love.
3. Work and profession – till a man considers his work as a means to earn power, money and status, he ends up being a stunted version of who he is. When work is seen as an opportunity to serve, it shows up in completely new dimension and colours. Work becomes a source of redemption of man, giving him the meaning to exist. He starts seeing work as a means to discover himself and express who he is in entirety. Work becomes worship.
4. God – the relationship with God takes up an entirely new meaning, operating from the stance of giving. God ceases to be that powerful man up in the sky who has a Swiss bank account, and who needs to be cajoled and coaxed for all the needs of man. Rather God shows up as ones own beloved, who is knowingly hiding from him, to test his true love for her. Man tries to enter into the union with his lovely beloved, through whatever he does waking and sleeping. His work, travels, readings, writings, thoughts, actions, meditations, prayer – all becomes a medium, a channel, a means to attain union with his love – his God. In Sanskrit, these means are termed as “Sadhana”, and is depicted in details in Vedic scriptures. His unity with God is not something unreal, but very much a reality. Certainly this cannot be appreciated out of an intellectual debate. But this is something that occurs to man out of his own practice, his own Sadhana.
5. Mankind – the entire mankind, starting from his friends and family to his colleagues and countrymen, to the entire world civilisation becomes a legacy he carries, trying with his own life to know this legacy and himself more and more, in the search of the truth, when he operates from the stance of giving. He doesn’t see his fellow man as a means to gain something for himself. Rather man becomes an end to himself.he is openly able to relate to mankind in love and potency.
6. Scholastic pursuits – a giver, sees his scholastic pursuits as a journey to discover the hidden wisdom, digging out from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge and wisdom. He gives his whole self, and forgets his ego and personal need in this pursuit. He does things which is otherwise impossible by a common man indulged in the sense of having. He works not to gain something in the end, but his pursuits itself becomes the end, and not a mere means.
Like this, probably every aspect of our lives, can be sanctified with the attitude of giving. Probably giving is the only natural way to be alive. Probably that is what is at core to a sustainable and happy living.
- Samrat Kar | Kar Conversations | Bangalore | 8th Feb 2014