Thursday, December 13, 2012

In Pursuit of Happiness and Six Feet Land

(Leo Tolstoy)

‘How much land does a man need?’ is a story written by Leo Tolstoy. A man is offered as much as land that he could cover in one day. Pahom was his name. He went in different directions and finally started running thinking that the distance that he would cover by the sunset would be his and he would be rich forever. He ran as fast as he could and each time he felt his lungs hurting he prodded himself to run more so that he could acquire more land. Finally he collapsed and breathed his last. The servant came, dug out a six feet hole in the earth and buried him there. In fact he needed only that much land- six feet of earth in total.

Greed has no end, Tolstoy wanted to tell his readers and the remuneration for greed is nothing but death. More than this apparent moral lesson, it also shows a larger truth of life: whatever one earns to earn and possess goes useless when death comes calling. You will need only six feet of space. Your sepulcher may be made up of marble. It may be spread out in acres of land. It may tell all your glory, your knowledge, wealth, worldly gains, conquests and charities you made but still you are there straightened up initially, crumbled later and dust to dust finally in an earthy vacuum of six feet. But is there any surety that you even get six feet that you rightly deserve as remuneration to the life that you have spent on earth? You may be cremated in an electric oven, you may die as a destitute, you may be buried like the carcass of animals died in host after an epidemic.

(Taj Mahal)

Still you run for your earthly possessions. We live in a world where money speaks to money. Even the biggest religious establishments that offer solace and redemption speak to the seeker in terms of money. Is it a wrong thing to have material possessions in a world where success is defined by visibility and visibility is assured through money? We have developed our economy from the real barter system to the symbolic currency system. Today we live in a world where money is transacted virtually and where showing of wads of currency notes either brings astonishment or disgust in the eyes of the onlooker. Money not seen but all what money could bring seen is the new mantra of our lives. Yet we need to show off our wealth through certain manifestations. The more you show it to the others the more you draw attention, reverence, influence and fear. The more you get all these, the more you feel like acquiring. You forget the story of our six feet of land.

Human beings have the tendency to clutch on to what they have. They feel like ‘possessing’ it. They don’t let it go. Whether it be a tiffin carrier or it be a suitcase full of notes, be you the richest of the rich or be a beggar in the pavement you clutch on to what you have. You just don’t let go. Clutching on to what you have and latching all your being on to them is like a gravitational pull. But all philosophies tell you to take momentum and get out of the orbit that is controlled by the materialistic pulls and release yourself into the firmament of pure being. Kabir says, burn your house and come to the streets. He asks us to let everything go. There is a famous story of Mulla Naseeruddin. A beggar was sitting on the pavement and was crying out that he had nothing. Mulla saw a small pouch of coins in front of the beggar. He snatched it and ran away. The beggar left his pavement possessions and darted after Mulla. Panting and puffing he caught hold of Mulla and demanded the pouch back. Mulla laughed and said, “you were the one who was wailing for having nothing. Now you have a few coins and you are running for it.”

(Mulla Nasiruddeen)

We are like that beggar. Running for what little things we have and wailing constantly to add on to it. People say acquiring wealth is a way to liberation and happiness. Or pure joy and pleasure.  Pure joy is something that you feel and you understand the joy based on the memory of the initial memory of moment that had given you that pure joy. By doing that you create a distance between the actual sensation of joy and the memory of it. Then it is not pure joy. It is a pleasure that you indulge in or you want to indulge in. People seek pleasure as they misunderstand it as pure joy. Pleasure has the semblance of joy. When there is an ultimate decimation of the distance between the two one gets pure joy. Money is the distance between pleasure and joy. That does not mean that money is unnecessary and penury is virtue. The understanding of money as distance between pleasure and joy is what making us run after it.  We make mistakes when we by pleasure with money and take it for joy. And we feel that we need to enjoy more and more pure joy, which is boundless, we think of buying more and more pleasure. We don’t see the fact that all the pleasurable things are like packed products which come with an expiry date. One has to throw it once consumed or by the expiry date. Joy cannot be thrown. That means money cannot bring joy. It can bring only pleasure.

You may ask what is that joy separated from pleasure or that pure joy absolutely integral with the enjoyment of pleasures. It is a sense of freedom, lightness and happiness. It is like an undisturbed sleep, the balm to all worries. I recount a story here. Perhaps it has been recounted by many masters and I got the story from one of them. A rich businessman, while traveling by a wheat field got a flat tyre and had to wait till the driver changed it. He saw a man of his own age lying down on a charpoy placed under the cool shade of a neem tree and smoking a hookah. The rich man walked up to him and struck up a chat with him. While talking he came to know that all those fields, orchards and endless lands with fruit bearing trees belongs to this man on the charpoy. So he asked why he could not sell a few portions of his land and invest in a business in the city. Then what, asked the farmer. You will get more money, said the rich man. After that, quizzed the farmer. You can invest more and make more money, said the rich businessman. After that, asked the farmer again. Then, you can take rest, said the businessman. That’s what I am doing now, replied the old man with a smile.

(A grave)

Resting is another form of happiness. It relieves you of fatigue and also brings you contentment. It prepares you to face graver truths. And when you are content perhaps truths become simple. You could see it like the horizon line at the end of the wheat fields. Such kind of happiness is not about absolute detachment from the material life. One has to go through all the karmic processes. One has to hold one’s own responsibilities. Detachment is not from the responsibilities but from avarice. To get that detachment one has to have the vision of that six feet of earth that is waiting for you.

There are three types of people who mainly talk against greed: One, the really rich ones who have grown tired of making more money, Two, the ones do not have money at all but aspire for making it. The third, people are those who have abandoned the pursuit of wealth for realizing higher forms of being in one’s own life. They do not seek riches but riches come to them as it would give them enough freedom to function in a society which is bound by greed. While the first category understands the futility of acquisition, which is rare, the second category speaks against it because they become bitter by constantly comparing their penury with others’ riches. The third category is those of visionaries who while deeply involved in the worldly karma realize their six feet of earth and the silent vacuum of eternity contained in it. They are the creators of a better world within a world that is on a race from morning to evening.

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