Updated: Apr 4, 2020
All my recent experiences have been pointing to just one thing- the answer to the above question! The first of these experiences was my unexpected encounter with the unprecedented floods in my hometown in Kerala in mid-2018. All other challenges that I had faced in my life until this point had seemed insignificant in front of the challenge of several lives at stake.
When I left behind my precious belongings and waded through the floods without even once turning back, I had a profound realization that there's nothing more precious in life than life itself- of ours and of people around. I say profound because, all of us do know that life is precious, but we do not recognize this as a truth or wisdom that will help us live our lives more meaningfully and with contentment.
Unfortunately even if we realize it at some point, we are humans after all, creatures who forget soon enough and get bogged down with life's day-to-day challenges!
Aren't we in a constant pursuit of something? Be it more knowledge, more luxuries, better jobs/more business, better relationships, better health, better looks, more recognition or more approval!! In this pursuit we often forget to appreciate what we already have and take for granted several things, including the very life energy that keeps us alive and kicking.
I am no exception to this. Soon after the flood experience, I got back to life busier than ever before. Goals after goals, plans after plans, forgetting that my requirements during the flood situation was so minimal, simply being thankful for our being safe and having shelter, enough food, and clothes.
Ironically, despite the tough times we faced, the situation had brought to light the essence of humanity and we experienced a deep connection with other survivors and rescuers. There was no power and gadgets, so the adults talked to each other without distractions and the kids played together like good old times, making paper boats and rockets. Sadly, when life got back to 'normal', with gadgets and other technology that claims to improve connections, we seemed to have lost the real connection to life!
What got me thinking about life again was the sudden demise of a person I know - a kind-hearted, sprightly lady, mom of two very young kids. The news was shocking and unbelievable. My heart went out to her family as I thought about the void and pain in their lives. And just as I was coming to terms with it, I got news that a very close family member survived a horrendous accident, albeit with serious injuries. I felt my heart sink in disbelief! These incidents made me recognize once again of the precious nature of life.
I now understand the true implication of the Sanskrit verse 'Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu' which I was taught to chant every time I prayed. It means 'May every being in this universe be well and free from suffering'. By saying this, I affirm that my thoughts, words, and actions contribute in some way to the well-being of all. Appreciating life of ours and others (no matter who), brings in great peace and happiness.
This is because 1) joy multiplies when we feel genuinely happy for others 2) when there is compassion, there is space for forgiveness 3) and when there is forgiveness, there is true liberation.