peacock-1373645Recently, a spiritual teacher of mine told me a story to drive home a point during an intense conversation. It goes something like:

“There was a wise teacher who told a hall full of audience after her discourse that she had ‘direct connection’ with God. A scandalized disciple quivered. On seeing his discomfort, teacher asked him later if something was bothering him. He shared his doubt about making such a statement publically and the teacher replied simply: Why, anything else I’d said would have been egotistical!”

Think about it.

Think about what you think you ‘own’ including yourself.

Another related experience:

An acquaintance once ‘complimented’ me saying I was beautiful. I said, smiling, “I know.” The person in question was outraged to the extent of being annoyed. He immediately formed and shared his opinion that “I was too proud.” I couldn’t really see the reason why he should be angry that I didn’t blush or thank him for noticing or brush his ‘compliment’ away modestly saying it wasn’t true. Because interestingly, I find myself beautiful too.

And I don’t really see how my beauty is of my doing. If I can look something outside of me and say – wow!  It’s beautiful! – I should be capable of doing that with myself with equal objectivity. A ‘thank you’ is also acceptance of ownership. And credit.

It’s funny really, all my years growing up, I was this ugly duckling – with dark complexion (in this white-worshipping country), thick spectacles, no sense of style whatsoever and a skeleton of a body! I longed for compliments then and none would come my way. Teasing was plenty.

Then came a time when the ugly duckling turned into something very pleasing on eyes and I revelled in that “beauty” as if it was all mine.

Then came the realization that it is neither mine, nor permanent, nor true in the true sense.

It took me a really long time to find myself beautiful, with all flaws embedded. Why so much time? Because I was too proud to accept all my flaws as beautiful.

Although the society teaches us the opposite in the name of modesty – accept your shortcomings, even toot them loudly; and meekly shrug your beauty and achievements. In actuality though, we love ourselves, even define ourselves for all the good things we have or done while ignoring the not-so-perfect aspects we’d rather not think about.

It figures. Modesty is one of the first things taught in human society. Taught modesty cannot be true modesty. How can modesty be taught? So while the child ‘learns’ to say ‘thanks’ humbly or even touch the elders’ feet, he hardly knows anything about modesty. In fact, modesty and pride are so related that every time I think of so-called modesty, I think of pride as its identical twin kept hidden from the world as in the movie The Prestige.

Everything you call your ‘own’ or think you ‘own’ – intelligence, virtues, riches, fortune, beauty is but grace bestowed. Yes, you are the custodian for a while and it makes sense to treasure, polish and relish your bounty, it serves to remember: while you own them, you own them not.

Call him/her God, nature, universe, universal force or whatever is the latest trend, he/she/it is a major stakeholder in anything you own. We work day and night making our human empires and we all have seen empires crumbling to dust in a matter of seconds.

To me, this is one of the most important teachings of the Gita. To reiterate:

While it’s you, it’s not you. It’s the whole universe that makes you you. Be attached to who you are, in a most detached kind of way.

Yes, you have a direct connection with God. Saying otherwise would be meaning you are running on your own. Are you?

Yes, you are beautiful. Because you are the creator’s most perfect creation, else s(he) wouldn’t have created you.

That’s true modesty.

(Also on Speaking Tree)
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Dinakshi is a curious explorer of life, and loves to see everything around her with a sense of wonder. Completely in awe of life and its ardent student, she is a writer, poet, blogger and ex-editor. Her superpower is involuntarily read and edit everything from text messages to poetry on the backside of trucks. Like any other Indian worth their salt, she’s done her time in the IT industry as a programmer. Books and journals have been her best friends for as long as she can remember. A philosopher at heart, she loves to question everything, including her propensity to question. An avid learner and unlearner, she is on a joyful path to live all that is.