Life is short: A rent philosophy
Recently, I had to shift into a rental apartment, as the building in which I was staying for many years was being demolished and re-built. Moving and settling into a new house is no mean task, as it is filled with physical and mental stress, but the feeling of losing one’s own house and moving into a rental one also brought forth a lot of spiritual realisation and understanding.
Though we claim ownership of many things and people in this world, is it not true that our entire life here is also a long lease? We are born without our knowledge and permission. Our lifespan here is a limited one, much like a rented or leased property which comes with a time frame. The time frame may be a few minutes, months or many years, much like leased properties which run anywhere from a year to ninety-nine or nine hundred and ninety nine years. But one thing is certain; we have to give up all that we own, someday. There is no way known to man—either with good deeds, with good behaviour, with lots of money, with charity, with penance, with plenty of prayer and worship, with pure thoughts, or with intense meditation — to have a permanent residence here, to become immortal and continue owning everything that we possess, forever on this planet. Our scriptures tell us that even gods, who were born on earth as ‘avatars’, ultimately had to leave this place.
We buy or rent property, and we spend a lot of money, time and energy in beautifying it, in order to have a comfortable existence. We eventually grow it into our house and become very attached to it, to our neighbours, and to the surroundings. With the passage of time, we take everything around us for granted. We fight with others to safeguard what is ours, and we are identified with our possessions. But however strong our legal position, vis a vis ownership of our possessions may be, in the long run, when we have to leave, we cannot take anything with us. Swami Vivekananda use to say “If you remember even once a day that one day you will be no more, it is enough to bring you down to earth and make you grateful and humble”. Hindus have a practice of applying sacred ash on their foreheads, every day after a bath. The philosophy behind this is so that you can clearly see and remember that one day, you too will turn into ash.
Unfortunately, the human mind is such that we always feel that death is something that happens to others, and somehow it will not touch us. Or at least, we feel that it will not come to us now. May be some day later in the future, but not now. And in this fashion, we push death into the dark recesses of our subconscious minds, and carry on with our life. Of course, this is a defence mechanism of our mind for the sake of survival, because if we thought about our impending death twenty four hours a day, we cannot have a fruitful life, as the stress will keep us paralysed. So, it is good not to be focused on death all the time, but once in a while, thinking about the inevitability of our deaths, is a good stock taking exercise, which will ground us and make us more humane and humble.
God or existence gives us this life here, on rent, on loan. As and when our services are required elsewhere, our rental agreement is terminated, and we are recalled back to the place from where we originally came here, perhaps to be sent back, after a variable period of rest, in some different form, different colour, different species, to lend a helping hand to god, so that his job here can be completed.
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P V Vaidyanathan is a Guest Contributor at Niti Central.