My friend Prabhakar M. L. was once put up in a star hotel by the sea. He got the best room with the best view. He lay on the bed and looked through the large windows at the sunset over the sea. And as the day extinguished its lights in fading flaming colours of the dusk, a singular thought dawned on him:   How insignificant man is?

For he looked at the gloaming before him and realized slowly that nothing in the world belonged to him. He looked at the things in the room that he had just checked into. Not a thing in it was his. Today he lay on this bed, on the morrow he would have to leave it. Also, the garden outside the window, he would leave it. The beach beyond the garden, the sea, with the silhouettes of the boats, the whole sea beyond the horizon, the fast disappearing sun, nothing belonged to him.

When my friend told this to me a small chill ran up within me. It has preyed on me for over a year. I have shared Prabhakar's thoughts with other friends of mine. They resonate these same ideas.

One morning almost a year after Prabhakar had told me, I lay for a moment after I woke up, thinking about how people boast about how rich they were, and of their so called achievements. Instead, must I not think that this could be the last time I was waking up to a morning. I have no control as to whether I will wake up or pass away in my sleep.

As I open my eyes, squeezing out the last remnants of  sleep, the first thought that barges into the fresh vistas of my mind is when I will not be able to keep out the eternal sleep, and my eyes sans vision, be closed for ever. Following this lead of thought, I ask myself if sleep has dreams, what does death have in store? Will life after-death be on a dream like plane? Maybe our greatest minds have not been able to fathom these simplest  thoughts.

As I wash myself, I am reminded of the innate weakness of us human beings. How can I say whether I will wash myself the next time, or that it could be my dear and near who will wash me one last time. For I know not what Providence has willed and so it will be.

As I dress myself, I cannot help but think whether I will be dressed by others the next time. "Oh! Rituu, how deluded we are, when we say we are in total control!", I exclaimed to another friend of mine who also resonated similarly on this spiritual strain of thought.

Deluded indeed for we can hardly control even the smallest mosquito. For the one that breeds in Kerala's monsoon showers is hardly discernible to the naked eye, yet its bite stings as good as a bee's! In the many smites that we employ we may kill a couple of them. But can we take back from it whatever blood it has taken from us? Or even if we could take back that little blood which it has taken out, can we put it back into our bodies? Alternatively, can we take out those countless little micro-organisms that it has put in? Thus even the simple mosquito bite we are not in control! Much less the numerous microbes, viruses, and other organisms that live within, and upon us, all the time.

Yet we prefer to live in our deluded fool's paradise, ignoring, forgetting, or laughing off the reality of death, the elder sister of sleep, though we sleep rather blissfully every night.

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Replies to This Discussion

Wonderful reflection Rafique!

Please help me think through this: how does the realization of impermanence help us in the practice of SALT. I somehow feel a link, but would appreciate reading the articulation of that link...

Yours friendly

JL

Dear JLL,

I wrote this now after seeing how authorities were hiding facts for more than a week when entire villages and towns in about  40,000 square Kilometres vanished under debris, or silt, or were washed away last Monday in the Himalayan state of Uttarkhand.

Instead there are reports that authorities are not allowing locals to travel into the affected areas allegedly because the high number of deaths surpassing many estimates would become known, putting the very existence of the Government in question.

Also, such mass death and destruction seems not to remove the it-will-not-happen-to-us attitude amongst us, the manifestation of which is the callousness towards death, just because death has always visited someone else. Nobody would have thought that all those houses would have vanished when the families went to sleep on Sunday night.  Life was snuffed out just around between 3 and 4 AM when the first light of dawn would have heralded a new day, a new beginning.  However, it was just a rude jolt that Life we take for granted is as impermanent as the shifting sands under the swirling waters of those deadly rivers.  

I agree with you JLL that one need not be too pessimistic thinking always of the death. Hence, the balance between utter callousness so evident in the authorities, and total pessimism in those who are overtly sensitive, must be reached by the judicious application of the SALT process especially in Disaster Management, rebuilding and rehabilitation of whoever is left in those communities in those forlorn hills. The experts state with the best of inputs it will be more than five years before a semblance of the former state of existence in these villages is reached.

JLL, you could not see the actual links because I was trying to be politically correct ;-)

 Thank you Rafique and JL for stimulating me to share. They stir different streams of thought. Rafique, it is indeed humbling to think of our insignificance, our fragility and of our impermanence . Yet, I hold on to the belief that we have agency - for a second, for a minute, for an hour if not in all things at all times. We have been given the space to change things. In all the wrong decisions, defensive denials, commercial interests that led to the climate change impact, there must have been some stories of people who cared. those who helped, those who warned, who protested, officials who listened, instances of human endeavour and courage. WHERE ARE THOSE STORIES??? I open the newspaper and only see stories of disaster and sexual assault - I agree that the world must know and action must be taken, but there are hundreds of loving relationships, gentle and caring ones Can a single such story not be reported???

I have just returned this morning after a week with women in sex work in North Karnataka. Each life was inspirational.They had risen up from the brink of a chasm of utter hopelessness and helplessness, and a sense of a total lack of meaning and purpose to a deep commitment for their fellow human beings??

Where did they find that strength? Most ironically from sex work and other sex workers!! When parents, husbands, and society denied them the space to live with dignity, they turned to sex work to survive and in that they found appreciation and  sometimes love. In other sex workers they found, support, courage and hope. They were able to move on like a river without looking back or being bitter.

This makes me believe in the innate goodness of humanity. I will draw on these stories to give me hope when I am deeply saddened and feel devastated by what I see in Uttarakhand. I travelled through those parts a few years ago and felt a strange affinity to the people and the land, and I can resonate with the anguish that you feel, Rafique. But I hope some friends from Uttarakhand will tell us that something else is also happening there.... people reaching out, people caring, stories that make us want to live  and love!

Dear Sanghamitra,

As stated to JLL I wanted to hide the Uttarkhand scenarios, but present only the intense conciousness of our impermanence as a driver to do good.  I do agree that we must look at our strengths, and look out for inspirational stories. That is what everyone of us in CLCP aim to do. However, for us to change immediately to that mode, we need to shock ourselves that we must change. And the remembrance of death, helps us as it always tells us that this could be our last chance to change, to do good, to pile on our strength...

I recount a story that brings out this point.

                    The King who wanted to change himself

There was a king long time ago and he had a vast kingdom. Though he had tremendous amount of wealth, but he didn't have peace of heart. So he decided to find some one who was at peace with himself. He had heard that there was a very pious man who stayed in a jungle and that many people used to visit him for advice. The king decided to visit him for some advice also. When he got there, he asked the pious man "How can I become peaceful and pious like you?" The pious man replied that you remember death 40 times a day for 40 days. The king thought that it was very easy and he thanked him and left for his palace. He remembered death 40 times a day for 40 days but no change came to his life. He was same as before.

The king became angry and called that pious man to his court. The king told him that he is nothing but a liar and that he should be killed before he fools other people. The King decided that the pious man will be beheaded the next day.

However, the Pious man had a request. He asked if he could become the king for a day. He promised that after getting the command, he will not kill the previous king or do any harm to him. So, the king agreed and made the pious man the king for a day. As soon as the pious man became the king, he went to the market and saw a man selling peanuts. He told the soldiers to catch that man and bring him to the palace. So, the peanut sales man was brought to the court. The pious man told the peanut sales man that he will be killed tomorrow. The peanut sales man became frightened and dropped all his peanuts. He started crying and asked what he did. But the pious man just said that he will be killed tomorrow and locked him up in jail so that he could not escape.

Now, as the peanut sales man knew that he was going to die, he forgot about everything else and started asking forgiveness from God. He started praying and doing excessive remembrance of God.

The Pious man ordered the Jailor that the King's treasure be brought and given to the Peanut sales man in prison. Now the pious man brought the previous king and told him to watch. However, the Peanut sales man did not even look at the royal treasures as he was so concerned about his death that would happen the next day. Instead, the peanut sales man asked the Jailor to take away the King's treasures as he was going to die tomorrow and these treasures if he retained them will surely cause him problems with God.

Next the Pious man ordered that the most beautiful call-girl in the city should be brought and placed in the jail with the peanut sales man. She was brought and as instructed she asked the man to commit adultery with her. Now the pious man brought the previous king and told him to watch. The peanut sales man started yelling at the woman to get away because he was going to die tomorrow and this evil deed will surely cause him problems with God.

Then the pious man asked the previous king if he understood what was going on. The Pious man explained that when you really know that you will die, then you will surely stay away from all evil deeds and engage yourself in the worship of God. So, remembering death once properly would be enough to change the life of a human being.

Rafique, makes me feel good reading this. You have amazing writing skills. Sanghamitra's response to this is inspiring and I echo with her on the growing tendency of media reporting on havoc caused. Hope to see more stories of courageous and resilient humans who saved many lives. Such stories would inspire people to respond.

     

Dear Rafique, you have Stimulate in us a moment of reflection of ourselves as humans. As we reflect, we do so [1] as an individual or as [2] a group of humans. One realization is that we live in an imperfect world and as we move forward in time we are moving further away from perfection and the global situation worsens. This makes it some what more challenging for us to cope with. SALT / CLCP has allowed us an opportunity to stimulate a different Way of Thinking with the hope of influencing a different Way of Working not only for ourselves but with those we are concerned about. Building COMPETENCE is a journey where we realize our strengths as humans to use these strengths with WOT and WOW whereby we develop the capacity to COPE with our concerns in a structured way. So my dear friend we do not have control over many (many) situations or things in life but we surely have strengths to help us cope and still live happy, comfortable lives for the remainder of time we have the strength to open our eyes now and into the future. We can also make an impression for those around us to do the same (^_^)

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