We Shall All Leave the World Empty-handed…

Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

From time to time it helps to take a pause, do some deep thinking, and reflect on the thoughts that float into our consciousness. In this process we can do no better than to draw from the wisdom of those who have done so even more profoundly before us, and for our great benefit and joy have left a legacy of their precious contemplations in beautiful sayings.

The authors belong to all parts of the world and come from many walks of life. In India, lyricists of film songs of an earlier era added to this tradition, and many of us who remember those days look back with great nostalgia to the wordings so full of meaning. And nowadays, the miracle of YouTube gives us the opportunity to spend beautiful moments viewing classical clips and listening to the soulful renderings.

From the film Ankush (1954), comes this sublime reminder about how we should live our lives in the song that begins with Itni shakti hame dena data… (Give me that much inner strength O Lord…):

‘Hum na sochein hame kya mila hai, hum ye sochein kiya kya hai arpan
Phool khushiyon ke bantein sabhi ko, sabka jeewan hi banjaye madhuban…’

Meaning: May we not only think of what we have received, may we also think of what we have offered; may we share the flower of happiness with all, that everyone’s life becomes as fragrant and beautiful…

We become attached to our earthly possessions, accumulating endlessly, even resorting to hoarding many a time. Money, fame, power hold us in their dirty grip, even as we forget that when we die, nothing of all this will go with us. And yet, we hardly ever knowingly ponder upon whether and what we have offered in return for the most precious gift of all that we have received: life.

It is a gift of love. So too let us give back with love: not with our hands, but with our hearts. For whatever we offer is not to this world, but to Tat: That whence we came and will return to, the creative source of all existence, Brahman. For Tat Twam Asi is the Ultimate Truth…

It is said of a famous conqueror that when he lay on his deathbed, he requested that both his hands be left out of his coffin with the palms turned upwards, so that everybody could see that despite all his conquests, he would leave the world with his hands empty.

As all of us will of course do too. But we forget that all these tangible things that we hold on to as being real are an illusion: in the words of Einstein, Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.’

The sooner we shed this illusion, the better our lives will be. This is possible if we can be as generous as possible – granted that not everybody can be a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffett. It is a lived experience of many down the ages that the more one gives, the more one receives. In some of our darkest moments, when all hope seems lost, this suddenly manifests as a redeeming light, much more precious than the material given away – as long as this is done selflessly. As St Francis of Assisi said, ‘Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.’

A complementary saying here would be: ‘Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant,’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist, poet and essayist.

We can, further, lift ourselves by this meditation titled ‘Life’ by William Arthur Ward:

The adventure of life is to learn.
The purpose of life is to grow.
The nature of life is to change.
The challenge of life is to overcome.
The essence of life is to care.
The opportunity of life is to serve.
The secret of life is to dare.
The spice of life is to befriend.
The beauty of life is to give.
The joy of life is to love.
And live some beautiful moments for,
Life never seems to be the way we want it,
But we have to live it the best way we can.
There is no perfect Life,
But we can fill it with perfect Moments…

What better way to live one’s life than to continuously sow the seeds of the future: for us, for those we love, for humanity.

* Published in print edition on 7 September 2012

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