Life experiences have taught me that real freedom, a state of abandon or total release, is attained when I am aware of and understand my motives and actions to take full control of myself and accept responsibility for what happens inside and around me. When I am aware of what is happening, I am ‘living with’, and when I am impulsively reactive (without awareness), I am ‘living within’. Living within is akin to living an illusion.
There is a very thin skin between living with and living within a situation, and it is very easy to drift from one to the other. Although I changed my surname at the age of twenty four, I am, and will always be, a Patel by birth and heritage, which cannot be denied. This is living with. There is nothing I can do about it, except to choose to set it aside. When I instinctively or habitually call myself a Patel, carry the ‘Patel’ flag and seek to promote myself as that, I am living within. I become obsessed with being a Patel, and am thus in the grips of this false image, or an illusion which dictates my emotions and behaviour. I am therefore not in control of myself, but my ego is. I am not free if I live within this illusion.
There is a Patel lurking inside each one of us which comes alive every time we become attached with our heritage and begin to identify with our surname or with our family name. Thus the ego blinds and imprisons us in an illusory world that diverts us from venturing into the storehouse of the Nature’s endowments within, where the real person resides. In our lifetime we accumulate so much physical and psychological clutter in the ever elusive search for happiness that we fail to realize that true joy is in living in a state of abandonment, which means living with, and not within, everything around us – a state of release or of being free from deep within.
I believe my freeing has come from a set of self-cultivated and practised principles and belief statements – basic truths so to speak. It has been said, ‘as you think, so shall you be.’ Thoughts, riding on the energy of powerful emotions, lead to results. Consistent results from the same continued thoughts result in beliefs. Sustained beliefs result in fundamental truths which become principles over time. Principles become the basis of well-reasoned guiding tenets.
This month I would like to share with you one of my cherished mind and soul-liberating guiding tenets which I have written about at length in ‘Good Bye, Mr Patel’. These tenets are my companions of immense value and transformational wisdom. They serve me well whenever I find myself to be in a quandary, fear-bound, low in spirit, or dwelling too much on negative thoughts. They are an invaluable basis for abandonment and understanding the enduring daily drama we call living.
“No-one Owes You a Favour”
This principle is based on a foundational understanding that selfless and unconditional giving is the primal intent of the universal force.
The universe has to be mirrored in each of us who seeks a harmonious existence with it. Life itself is a very serious business (‘busy-ness’). There is so much going on inside each living body which is shedding dead cells and creating new ones every second of our existence. All our organs are replaced in a set cycle and this is taken for granted so much that we do not even realise this perpetual miracle at the core of our existence. We do not keep a record of what Nature is continually giving us.
To be one with Nature and to mirror it, I have to make giving second nature to me, and keep no record or memory of it. I heard a business owner once talking to his friend on the phone. This friend was in some kind of difficulty and wanted the business owner to talk to a mutual acquaintance on his behalf. The businessman gave assurance that he would talk to him and definitely resolve the problem because he said, “he owes me a favour”. I was a little perplexed by those words.
How can anyone owe you a favour? If you have done someone a favour, it is an act of giving on your part. And as it is a favour, it has to be selfless, charitable and humane. It is unconditional; there cannot be an expectation of a similar act in return. There cannot be a record or treasured memory of this act on the part of the giver. True charity is when the act is done and nothing is said thereafter by the benefactor. If that is not the case, the act becomes a business transaction. The receiver of the favour becomes indebted and the giver carries the burden of collecting. Both are under stress. This works in total conflict with the intent of Nature, and if extended to the entire human race, organised social order would disintegrate.
Therefore, someone owing you a favour is warped thinking, as its total application to all human beings leads to harmonious life not being possible.
Equally too much eagerness to reciprocate or return an act of favour, to ‘square up the score’ as it were, is a form of ingratitude. In selfless giving a true giver experiences a veritable joy, not dissimilar to that which the deserving recipient experiences. To deny someone such joy is in itself an act of ingratitude and a show of arrogance.
All known religions are founded on charity as one of their precepts. The beauty of selfless giving is that it makes the recipients feel worthy, recognised and the givers good about themselves. The recipients remain in a state of gratitude and instinctively become givers in their own right. They are at least giving gratitude. And if they are givers, then in this continuum givers have to be recipients at some stage! If someone gives me a gracious or out of gratitude gift, I will choose to accept it, even if it is of no use to me. I will then seek someone who can benefit from it, and pass on the gift to that person. It makes me morally enriched and strong, and never poorer or deprived. You see, in the words of J C Maxwell, evangelical Christian author, speaker, and pastor, ‘your candle loses nothing when it lights another candle’.
True giving has to be unconditional; otherwise it becomes a transaction which needs to be balanced by an act of reciprocation. If reciprocation does not come, imbalance, conflict and dissatisfaction ensues. The result of this is despair and loss of desire to do any more of the so-called favours. I have known many people say something like, “You do so much for others, but you never get appreciation for it. All you get in return is ingratitude. From now on no more favours, no more giving.”
There is story of a beggar who went round all day about his begging business, and returned to his ramshackle dwelling under a bridge over a small stream in a busy city. As he sat down to have his meal, he saw his mate lying down barely covered by a tattered blanket, and asked him, “What kind of day have you had?” “I haven’t been out today, I have a fever and I am feeling very cold” was the reply. On hearing this, the first beggar, without a second thought, relinquished his claim on his meal and gracefully placed it beside his friend, saying, “Have this, and don’t worry. I will be back just now.” He went to a drug store and spent all his day’s alms to buy medicine for his friend. He himself drank water that night and slept peacefully. That night he gave away all he had for the well-being of another. Even a beggar can be a magnificent giver. Giving is not the domain of the wealthy only.
George Bernard Shaw, playwright and critic, sums up the life of giving in his mission statement: ‘This is the true joy in life – being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one, being a true force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and for as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.’
Selfless giving produces a mood-lifting substance called serotonin in the brain of the giver. Serotonin creates a state of ‘feeling good’ about oneself. Anyone can create such a state about themselves. You do not have to be rich to give. I can choose to give friendship, time, and unconditional love, teach someone a skill I possess or pass on knowledge. You see the most precious gifts are not tangible or expensive, and most of all, they are not favours, merely evidence of dedication to being used for a mighty purpose.
Until next time