I landed in Mumbai for the last leg of my India adventure. This would be a relatively calm and uneventful portion of the trip as compared with the time in Vrndavana or Sri Rangam, save for a wedding reception of Rasanath and his lovely wife where I would be requested to stand by her side and pose in every photo the couple took with their never-ending swarm of Indian guests.
I was overjoyed to be the token white guy everyone would look back upon and wonder: Who was that guy…?
But at the airport I could not know this was in store. And I wholeheartedly regret that it will not serve us to describe that event further here… Rather I was fixed upon a single point as I awaited my ride.
There was a balding, stocky Indian man who strolled up and down the street awaiting his own taxi. And on his neck was a string of Tulasi beads – sacred bark that indicated one to be a practitioner of Bhakti yoga. He looked to me like a business magnate on his day off where he could delightfully indulge in shorts and a scuzzy T-shirt.
I thought to myself, it would be wonderful to see his home. To join him for a home-cooked meal. This experience of hospitality is not at all uncommon in Bhakti circles. Even amongst relative strangers. Hospitality and relating on the platform of purpose is embedded in the fabric of the culture. Moreover, the food is traditionally blessed with spiritual intentionality and prayer. The meal thus becomes a bonding experience on another level.
I then wondered if he might be able to help our cause with Upbuild to reach souls around the world. And as I was about to go on wondering and wondering, I stopped.
What am I doing?
Besides daydreaming, I’m delightfully indulging in a world where everything revolves around me! I thought I was more interested in giving! But in this conjuring, it was clear…
As innocent as the desires were and as closely as they tie to genuine giving, that was not my first inclination! It was what can I get?!
Wouldn’t it be nice to be on a vacation where I could have such a lovely meal? Wouldn’t it be nice to see a really opulent home and feel at home in the opulence? Wouldn’t it be nice to have another important friend half-way around the world who could look out for me and treat me to a wonderful time?
I was becoming more and more embarrassed.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see if such a man might be invested in helping us try to change the world, one person at a time? Yes! The latter is true. They’re all true.
But where was it coming from?
I could easily hide behind a giving mentality. There was a lot of genuine desire to give. I just knew that was not the primary motivation. It was there. But it wasn’t the driving force!
The driving force was a conditioning I’ve carried with me since my days of gallivanting around Paris, sipping fine wines and feeling high and mighty. I wanted to have cool, memorable, lush experiences for myself and to dovetail material resources of another without even seeing how I could serve him!
At heart, I want to serve every soul. I don’t want to take from others. But the unconscious mind sticks to what it knows. And we live in a culture where taking is a given.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world. You gotta fight to survive and take what’s yours. If you don’t, someone else will.
No one really respects a servant. You’ve got to become someone. You’ve got to show that you’re worth it!
It’s taken me years to shed this conditioning, and as a case in point, the shedding process vigorously continues! It may take a lifetime to lose that first inclination. But if that’s not our hearty goal, then it won’t ever be discarded. We’ll carry it with us and breed cynicism while we proclaim our niceties. Or we’ll scratch the backs of those who scratch ours and live a contented and complacent life.
We’ve got to put a wrench in the system somehow. And it starts with desire.
We have to want to be our best self. And we’ve got to recognize that there is so much more at stake than we think. The happiness we seek is rarely found when the disposition is to get. When we do find it in getting, it has a very short shelf life.
The disposition to get signifies entitlement.
When you get something you feel entitled to, you rarely are happy. You feel relieved of suffering, perhaps, but not often positively happy.
In stark contrast, when you get something you feel you don’t deserve, you’re overwhelmed with gratitude, and the happiness is naturally abundant. These are the treasures of life. And the trick to build up the treasure house is to switch the disposition.
When do you catch yourself trying, first of all, to get from others? What if you were to give something that person felt grateful for instead? What would that do for your happiness quotient?
I decided to leave my fellow yogi alone and catch our cab to the suburbs of Mulund. But I would not forget him and the lesson he taught me which I reflect upon regularly.
We have the power to invest in our disposition. But it requires the vigilance of self-awareness and the vivid vision of our very best self. If we ready ourselves now, we’ve got a lifetime on our side.