Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why Possession is self defeating

Today let’s look at one of the greatest lessons nature has taught me that possessiveness is self-defeating; you cannot possess without losing and when you do not possess you cannot lose.

What do we really need to live, I mean ‘really, really’ - air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. Can we possess any of these things; and come to think of it, do we ever even want to possess them. Have you ever thought, when you breathe in the sweet mountain air or the invigorating ocean breeze that this air should belong to you and only to you, or when you drink water (perhaps you feel possessive of the water bottle in a hot summer day) that only you should have the privilege to clean drinking water, or that all food should only be for you. I don’t think any of us have ever thought about these things, even though without these three we cannot be alive. Despite being absolutely essential to live, we do not feel possessive about these three. We don’t mind when 7 billion other human beings and countless other animals breathe in the same air from the same atmosphere, or drink water, or eat food. Similarly when the sun rises each morning we do not feel possessive about it and do not want to own it, so is with any other celestial body or the ocean or the sky.

Since we do not feel possessive about the abundance of nature: water, air, sunlight, sky, and ocean, we live without the fear of losing them even though if they weren’t there we would cease to exist. Pause for a moment and think why we don’t feel possessive about these things! There must be something deep inside our genes of evolution that tells us that to survive we must share them with everyone and no way is it possible to possess any of these things. But when we draw national boundaries and erect barbed wires or landmines through the earth, creating territories, we do become possessive at a larger scale, suddenly it is our land, our air space, our rivers, our mountains, our lakes, our territorial waters (thank god we still have international waters in oceans; come to think of it why don’t we have any international lands (barring Antarctica in a manner of speaking) and then we are scared of losing our land, our rivers and therefore must safeguard it, so armies are created and wars start. People die and live in fear of losing, the same people who do not want to possess the air or the sun or the sky, they lose the sense of freedom since now they are enslaved by fear of losing.

At a more micro or personal level we get possessive of things that we think are essential but most of them are only self or society created need, so we are possessive of our materialistic belongings: house, money, property, car, clothes, jewellery, household goods, anything that is enclosed within our homes and also in our hearts (it is like a micro mini country with its own boundaries and borders, which needs as many complications and even more than what you need to undergo to procure a visa for a foreign nation), and we live in constant fear of losing it all. We also get possessive about non-tangible things like fame, prestige, status, which are nothing more than whole lot of emptiness uplifted by others who in times of real need may not do anything at all for you. But we give all these things so much importance and feel possessive about them and all our lives we are scared of losing these: money, fame, house, wealth, valuables.

Now the worst kind of possession is of course that we feel for our near and dear ones; this sense of possession that someone you love only belongs to you can often tear our hearts into pieces; as the fear of losing always lurks in our mind. Believe me, no matter what they say (whoever ‘they’ is) but no one, absolutely no human being, no matter how near and how close and how important in your life, is imperative for you to live like the air, water, food, sunlight etc. So live and love without the fear of losing, since if you lose, you will not die, and for that first you got to remove your feeling of possessiveness. Even when you know deep inside your heart that it is impossible to own a person, neither do you possess your spouse or your children, or your parents, or your lover, just about anyone at all. Yet why do we allow this sense to prevail over everything else; and therefore making it one of the prime reasons for all our miseries and suffering. Now imagine for an instant that you could look at your loved ones without feeling possessive and without the fear of losing them and even if for an instant you are free from the fear, you will realize how amazing it feels to love yet to be free. Being in love is about being free too; free from all fears, including the fear of losing your loved ones. Try this out; it’s something easy to put into practice, all you need to do is to do it.

Of all the human relationships the one that arouses most intense insecurities and fear and jealous possessiveness is that between spouses or lovers, especially when the object of your affection is beautiful and charming, intelligent and desirable, even more if he or she travels often out of your sight and home and even further if he or she is well known and therefore loved by many. If a man comes home and tells his wife or lover that he met with an attractive woman doesn’t mean that he doesn’t find his wife / lover attractive or desirable any more. Similarly if a woman dresses up nicely to go to a gathering where her husband or lover will not be present doesn’t mean that she wants to dress to attract other men. If either spends time away with others doesn’t mean that they do not like each other’s company anymore. If a man or a woman falls in love with someone who is not their spouse or lover doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t love the spouse or lover any less or any differently. Love is not an object that will be reduced if divided or shared, since it cannot be divided or shared anyway, even if it emanates from the same individual. It’s not like a piece of bread that has limited volume, weight and dimensions and you distribute it between two people you care for, so each gets half. Love is a feeling, an intense emotion or if you believe some sort of chemical reaction leading to an electric impulse inside your brain (I don’t know how heart got associated with love, though poetically this connection is beautiful), none of these as you can see has volume, weight or dimensions that needs to be divided. One person can be in love with two individuals and yet be complete with each one. And years ago one of the many women who have been in love with me told me rightly – “Satya I can be in love with you and also with my husband but I can only be with one physically.” I had absolutely no desire to be with this woman physically (barring very few short instances around the world where we would accidentally meet) and hence she remained physically with her partner yet I never doubted her sincerity or completeness in loving me. I never wanted to possess this woman so I never felt the fear of losing her and was set free.

Likewise, by no means do I suggest that you should discard all materialism from your life like house, wealth, money, cars, valuables, status, fame, etc, since they are good to have in moderation I suppose without getting vain or obsessed, but if you can look at them as things that you have the right to use but not the right to own maybe it will be more enjoyable. After all, irrespective of you living in fear or feeling possessive, if these things have to go they will go when they have to, no point in living in fear even before they are gone. I for one live without the fear of losing but maybe it is easy for me since I do not really possess anything keeping my life simple by never owning anything, barely anything of material value and giving absolutely no importance to non tangible things like fame or status or prestige. Such things are given by others anyway and those who have given can also easily take them away so there’s no point in considering them important or living in the fear of losing what anyway was never yours.

Very briefly I want to touch upon another possession of ours; which is of our miseries. Our desire to possess is so intense that it amazes me to see that we do not even let go of our miseries; so we end up by saying things like – I have this sickness, I have miseries, I have problems, I have troubles, etc, etc. It’s all about ‘I have...’ Do we really need to be possessive about things that we do not want in our lives! Think about this. Many people tell me – I am miserable since I have a lousy job and I have a tyrant boss. It makes me laugh since you can so easily set yourself free from this; you don’t have to possess your job or your boss; the power to free yourself is with you.

I am sure you have got my drift by now; if only we could love and feel the way with our human relationships and materialism the way we feel about the air we breathe and the water we drink or the food we eat and the sun we witness each day or the open blue sky above then we would learn the secret of living without fear and without the need to possess. Nature is telling us and showing us the way every day, each moment, yet we are not willing to learn. And only if we could apply this to the larger scale of a nation and not really divide our planet into areas and say this is mine and that is yours, leading to world peace and no war, where we could cross over from one land to another like a big family without any passport or visa or needing to prove one’s identity or intent or being called an alien (as if we come from another planet), but simply because we are human and share the same nature at global scale. The only truly free beings in this world are the animals that we look down upon and are trying our best to annihilate. Imagine a mighty Siberian Crane, on its flight from Siberia to the tropics during winter, and being stopped and questioned by other birds every few hours or being shot at by the birds of the countries that it is flying across; or the whales from the Greenland Sea swimming to the Galapagos being stopped and killed half way by those frolicking along the Pacific coast of USA.

I am not sure what or why we started building societies around the world for human and started calling ourselves the mightiest of the species when all we really are; is a group of animals living in constant fear of losing what we do not possess, yet led to belief that we do and must guard it all with whatever we can. It really is a sorry state of affairs and all the hatred and fear and loathing and destruction we see in the larger scale simply emerges out of the smaller scales, the insecurities and fear of losing inside our heart (or minds I suppose). We cannot grasp the macro if we do not understand the micro. So if we can begin by removing this desire or need to possess whatever we have (be it material, or non-material, or human) then we would not be afraid anymore and would be able to live free and open.

Though nothing is truly ours since we are born with nothing and will die with nothing (even the life that you live is not yours), things that you care about would be with you, the people you love, the relationships you nurture and value, ethics that you build, home that you create, valuables that you acquire, etc and hopefully you would have them all your life though each would change with time just like you would; and if we can live with this feeling of well being without the fear and insecurities then life would be so much better and free. Since the bottom line is, whether you like it or not, nothing is truly yours and if something or someone has to go then it will go. No matter how hard or tight you cling your fist you cannot retain water within since it will slip through, yet if you keep your palm exposed and make a cup that is open to the world, the water will stay longer, though eventually it will evaporate and disappear.

Everything that begins will end one day, everything that is created will be destroyed one day and everything that you possess will one day be taken away. And the only foolproof way to avoid this is never to begin, never to create and never to possess; but that would be a dull life indeed so by all means begin but do not be scared of the end since it will only end when you die and at that point nothing will really matter; by all means create but do not let the thought of destruction worry you since the act of creating something is an end itself and it leads to sense of wonder and similarly by all means think that your relationships and material possessions belong to you but do not be scared of losing since you are only a user and not the owner. Just like the way you sit on a lonely shore of the vast ocean and can think that the shore and the ocean belongs to you, yet you know that far beyond where your visions don’t reach, there are others in their own lonely shores thinking the same as you. The ocean is the ocean, it is what it is, it belongs to you and to everyone yet it belongs to no one, just like the sun, and the sky and the air.

I am not asking you to change your life or your world since that cannot be done, we need our houses, we need comforts, we need fame too, and of course no one can live without their loved ones, so everything remains just as it is; the change needed is subliminal and subtle yet all powerful.

It is within. 

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