You and I Exchange
The commentary of a tree
The usual summer morning was suddenly interrupted by a smoke of dust. The brightness of the sun clouded and fragmented by noise of the construction vehicles. The surrounding skyline visually cleaned of the foliage, allowing a strange and unexpected brightness to filter its way through. Standing a distance watching the alteration in the foreground - that too an anticipated change, the Terminalia arjuna gazed perplexed.
The feeling of knowing that the war had finally set in it turned in anxiety and questioned his confidante, his friend standing alongside - Anthocephalus cadamba (Kadamba) – “Why are we at war, do we not all belong to the same family – the humans, the animals, the us. If we are at war with family… all rituals will be abandoned, and all ancestors will be forgotten. Those who unravel the fabric of family will surely sink into hell."
Kadamba, who is also fondly associated with the name Krishna realized that the Arjuna’s response was full of fear and confusion. Unlike, the ones who created the smoke. As they had clearly drawn boundaries dividing those they consider their own and those they consider as outsiders, intruders, even enemies. Realizing the anxiety that has now engulfed his companion, Krishna speaks:
“Arjuna, the wise know that you and I and the rest existed before this event, and will continue to exist after this event.Rather than change the world that defines control, seek validation from things temporary we engage, observe, discover and enjoy."
For Arjuna’s self-realization of the present and the appreciation that one can accommodate the limited view of others, Krishna indulges in a linear narration of their existence.
You and I both began in the age of innocence. In this age, we were surrounded by beings that were like us – we called it the forest. Everyone lived in balance - the humans, the animals and us. It was what we understand as the age of truth and perfection. Nobody knew the idea of property and ownership – everyone lived in Dharma.
For Dharma is more about empathy than ethics, about being rather than outcome.
“Arjuna, did we still not battle then?” Did we not battle to serve and nourish ourselves from the soil that also had many like us, surrounding us?” Did we not stand together and face the storms, the changes in the seasons, the need for water, the want to survive?”
Battle or being at war is not new to us – we have experienced this before. We have been here before – the only difference being that we were in empathy.
For being in empathy is Dharma – where we were not concerned only about our own hunger at the cost of others but balance each other’s needs and wants. We all rode waves of fortune and misfortune. If You and I believe we alone control the waves, then we are like the rest.The rest who are concerned their own hunger at the cost of others.
You and I can include, like we did during our maturity. The age where humans started to civilize, and we started to contribute. This was the age of divisions, of conquer of establishments and participation of the humans with us. Of us with the humans and the surroundings. That was karma.
“Arjuna, action is not only karma, reaction also is”
During this phase, we participated with the humans - became part of their day to day living. We both witnessed the change in which we gave way to agriculture for produce. Accommodated to become space for social gathering, a symbol of worship and even sometimes a subject of play.
We did not resist the change then, then why the confusion today. Why the fear today?
“Arjuna, those connected see everything equally, for they discover truth everywhere, in everyone and everything”
We know how to be connected – we have been connected - to the humans, their actions, their fears, their joy, their needs and not just to them but even the requirement and demands of animals and the other like us. Then Arjuna, why do you today withdraw in fear.
When you feel that you acknowledge, appreciate and accommodate the other worldview, rather than dismissing, tolerating and adoring or even following, you know you are expanding yourself.
You and I cling and that is the why we felt limited during the age of struggle. The age of struggle where everyone turned selfish. Natural tendencies were replaced by wants and requirements. Everything contracted – from the human mind, the physical space and even the visual limits of the sky. We contracted as well, lost many of whom we stood alongside only make way for the human tendencies to take control. The struggle commenced and unfolded in such a pace that no one could pause to understand. Neither they, nor did we. We behaved like one of them. We too lost faith. We felt that we are the victim and they the villain.
If I am what I am, then I cling to what I have to secure. And when you try to take it from me, I feel violated – this is psychological violence. This age when the human was the predator we reduced ourselves into a prey. Our attachment to our identity made us violate ourselves and no more accommodating like we once learnt to be.
As long as we don’t have faith, we carry the burden of solving all problems. We will be impatient and fight and cling. Wisdom is enjoying things that drift and letting go of things that drift away.
“Arjuna, those who keep thinking of property get attached to it and crave it relentlessly, which causes frustration, which leads to anger and then confusion, eventually destruction”
“Arjuna, all beings follow their nature. Even the wise act according to their nature. What is the value of restraint then? Do not let them (the others) beguile you and distracting you from discovering yourself”
You and I can be generous, especially today, when even before we realized we have already stepped into the age of darkness. This age what we hear as the notion of Climate Change – where everything has been caused by the condition of ignorance. Where the health of the surrounding, the health of the human physical as well as our natural tendencies have all started to be altered. Hypocritical behavior at one self, towards our immediate, and at the society at large larger has superseded virtuousness. This overview has led to pollution – in innumerable forms that stretches across all facets of the daily. From the sea to the sky. From the environment to the mind. From an individual to the society. From the local to the global.
“Arjuna, you have no control over your action. So, do not be drawn to expectation and inaction”
Do not withdraw today in confusion. Between survival and understanding comes judging – the state when everything and everyone around is evaluated based on imagined benchmarks in order to position oneself.
“Arjuna, to expand your mind, use intelligence to draw your mind away from sensuality, so that there is no self-obsession, aggression, desire or possessiveness, attraction or repulsion. You are content in solitude, consuming, little, expressing little connected with the world and aware.”
Everyone now wants to return to innocence, all accommodating and create the perfect balance. Just like you do now, hence you stand confused. Just like the others. We are never to reach the stages that we have lived and grown together. So, “Stop wanting”.
As long as we resist the reality, we will not discover what lies ahead, what we can contribute and how we can matter to each other and the rest who are around us.
Can you and I participate in a relationship without seeking to control the behavior of the other? Can we help each other outgrow our hungers and fears? These should be the questions that should cross your mind, my Arjuna and not that of confusion. As only by trust can we participate with everything around us to restore faith in the environment that we belong.
“Arjuna, thus I have passed on the secret. Reflect on it and do as you wish. Do not share this knowledge with the cynical, disdainful or disinterested. Those who share my words I adore. I hope you have focused on what I said.”
For if you have not, then surely there is somebody else – reading and listening what I speak.
- adaptation and reference from MY GITA, Devdutt Pattanaik
“Arjuna, there are two paths, one of return and the other of no return. The wise, the connected, know the difference and choose the one of no return.”