There is an interesting mention made in the Sri Sai Satcharita about the grinding of wheat. It refers to a grinding stone where the lower part is one’s Karma (Fate, destiny) and the upper is Bhakti (path to achieving salvation), with the handle of the device being Jnana (knowledge). The rotation of the upper stone grinds the ego as well as impulses, desires and sins.
I pondered about the aspect of ego.
It struck me that our entire approach to life revolves around our ego, and our actions and words reflect this state. Every single action or observation invokes the ego, however subtly.
Ego binds and limits, which leads us to refer to ‘I’ and ‘my’, which in turn confines ourselves to the finite. It cares only for its own existence.
If someone smiles at us, our ego is touched; if someone ignores us, the ego gets touched, too. It is like an open wound. And, one is quick to blame anything on anyone else except ourselves.
Ego brings with it a lot of competition, power plays, control, judgment, criticism, testing, even abuse. It also comes to the surface out of fear – that we are at the mercy of the world – when, in fact, we can be the creators of our own destinies.
The ego always tries to grab what it can from the world, in the belief that it lacks, and only what is out there can fill the gaping hole inside.
Breaking this pattern is difficult, since this ego has a million tricks to keep us engaged. We tell ourselves that all our experiences, problems issues etc, are a consequence of what someone else does or does not do. We become defensive, we counter-attack.
It is ego that gives us a sense of incompleteness.
If one delves into the past, many memories come to the surface. It could be scolding from parents and teachers, unkind words that we might have been subjected to, failures of any kind, rejection, etc. These are forgotten incidents, yet they somehow fester. And, such wounds can be opened very easily through other events, as the ego rears its head.
The irony is that we permit this to happen. Sadly, it is this very same ego that prevents us from acknowledging and correcting.
One way out is to try not to react, not to reject, whatever happens. To be accepting.
Ego is not about self respect. It is a lot more. It is very basic and fundamental.
It is a battle that has to be fought and won from within.
It is strange how the colour of one’s skin evokes irrational and, sometimes, idiotic responses. Brings out the worst in some people.
It was an early morning flight out of Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and the kids were sleepy. It had been a hectic, but enjoyable, four days at Euro Disney, and all one could now think of was settling into the aircraft seat and have a long nap on the eight-hour flight back.
We were booked on business class, and as I wheeled the luggage trolley towards the check-in counter, a stern looking member of the Air France staff jerked her thumb dismissively towards another counter and rudely said “Economy is that side.”
“Isn’t this the Business Class counter?” I asked.
“Yes, go to the Economy counter”, she replied, with a superior manner and a voice that dripped with irritation.
I could feel the anger welling inside me but chose to keep my composure. “Would you mind having a look at my ticket?” I asked in as measured a tone as possible.
It evoked no response since the lady had turned away and was pretending to be busy with something important.
“This does it,” I thought to myself, “these rude guys are going to get an earful from me.”
A supervisor happened to observe the exchange and came forward to ask what the matter was. I told him that I was here to check-in and showed him the tickets. To his credit, he completed the formalities. There was, however, no apology, no friendliness.
As we left the counter to head for the departure area, I told him that he and his colleague were the most impolite airline staff I had ever encountered in all my travels, and that they were an utter disgrace not only to their airline but also to the entire industry. I also told him that they were not doing anyone any favours since it was the paying passenger, irrespective of class of travel, that ultimately provided these staff with a livelihood.
He didn’t like my comment, but I couldn’t care less.
It is evident that some people have vacuum between the ears.
To the airline’s credit, the service on board was better.
At a Toastmasters meeting recently, I did a project speech that involved “Roasting” someone. Roasting is a good natured, humorous, description of a person, and is done in jest.
On the face of it, it appeared simple enough. Till I sat down to write the Roast, that is.
It was then that I realized how hard it is to describe a person’s characteristics, traits, habits, interests, peculiarities, etc., without causing offence or hurt.
It dawned on me that we are too judgmental of others, and often describe them in terms that aren’t always gracious. And, what’s worse, we tend to be critical behind their backs. It is, perhaps, inherent in human nature to adopt a posture, and rigidly stick with it, without consideration of a different side of the other person that one is either unaware of, or one that we choose to ignore for whatever reason.
Once that position is taken, it is hard to alter one’s view or perception.
It also occurred to me that it is possible, if one chooses to make an effort, to look closer at a person, and discover many other interesting facets. It helps to reflect on why a person behaves or reacts in a particular way, and also understand why that person reacts to us in the way he/she does. For, it quite possible that the reaction/response one sees is nothing more than a mirror image of how we ourselves behave and react.
It was a sobering thought.
The person I chose is a very good human being, friendly, warm, cheerful, and helpful. How does one, therefore, roast him in a pleasant and kind manner without causing offence? It was one of the most challenging projects I have ever done as a Toastmaster.
I did manage to do the roast. Towards the end, I also asked the audience, with a smile on my face, if my words reflected their own feelings about the “Roastee”. Many faces around the room broke out into smiles, several hands went up enthusiastically, and I knew that my objective had been achieved.
A senior Toastmaster commented that I had actually honored the Roastee with my words, having chosen him as the subject, and having taken the effort to think and speak with care about the man.
The Roastee was pleased and enjoyed being at the receiving end.
I gained a friend … and a new insight into human behavior and responses.
Humans are curious by nature – some more than others. They want to know about what’s happening. The purpose of wanting to know varies, though. For some, it is a harmless natural curiosity. For others, it could be a need to obtain information that is then used as fodder for gossip. There are others who ask out of concern and a genuine desire to know.
There is the concept of “need to know” as opposed to “want to know”. It is hard, at times, to know where to draw the line when it comes to asking questions. Not surprisingly, this also places the other person in a bit of a spot about what to say and what not to. It gets awkward.
We often forget that our questions could irritate the other person who might wonder about where the line of questioning is leading to. Defenses immediately come up, and we are left with either no answers at all, or a rebuke.
It is important to recognize, however, that it is our fault for asking so many questions in the first place.
Are we going to gain something by asking? Is it relevant to us? Can we do something out of knowing?
If the answer is “no”, then the best approach, perhaps, is to shut up and not ask. In the process, we do not get a rebuke. And the other person does not feel compelled to then answer without causing offence.
It takes time and effort to understand and realize that if it is important, we will surely be told.
Thirty years ago, on this day, I was fortunate to emerge alive from a horrific car accident. While I still carry physical scars, and some mental ones, too, the crash opened my eyes to the fact that there are caring humans who are prepared to go that extra distance for their fellow beings.
I shall always be indebted to a man, whose name I will never ever know, who placed stones on the highway to stop oncoming traffic, compelled the driver of a pick-up truck to help, and deposited us at a hospital 30 kms. away. He did not leave a name, since he felt that he had done his duty, and that it was left to God and the medical fraternity to take care of us.
I shall always be indebted to those who, at great personal sacrifice, stood by me during those pain-filled days in hospital and nursed me back to good health, who helped me walk again, and who kept me in good cheer.
Having driven thousands of kilometers, in several countries, under varying road conditions, coping with the peculiar driving habits of people, I have often reflected on the psyche of the individual at the wheel.
Does the fact that you control a powerful machine give you the right to lord over everyone else who attempts to share your space? Does the fact that you have a bigger vehicle give you the right to intimidate those in smaller ones? Does the fact that you possess a driving license give you the license to behave like a boor on the road?
Does the fact that you are personally unmindful of the risks involved in driving recklessly give you the right to place the lives of others at risk?
It horrifies me when I see lunatics in powerful cars / SUVs drive as if there is no tomorrow. Careening down the highway at high speed, weaving in and out of traffic, changing lanes without using the indicator lights, barging in ahead of you without any advance warning, flashing their headlights as they approach you from the rear – rude and arrogant actions that speak poorly of the guy behind the wheel.
Actions that make you want to question what lies between the ears of that individual.
It is a question of attitude, I suppose.
My mind is totally blank about what exactly happened that day, thirty years ago. But, on occasion, I still hear the shrill, harsh, squealing sound of brakes as the driver fought hard to prevent the car from going off the road.
And, I remember the colour of the car – it was blood red.
The colour that comes to mind when I see some of the senseless idiots on the road.