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Tag: empathy

Giving like this

It is one thing to talk about selflessness and empathy and caring for others etc. While it is something else altogether to put this into practice, especially with irredeemable consequences.

85 year old Narayanrao Dabhadkar was immortalized in the last week of April 2021. Having experienced complications from COVID, his family took him to a nearby hospital. As is perhaps well known, oxygen, beds, remdesevir and other important treatment necessities have been in very short supply in India.

The family of this 85-year old man somehow got an ICU bed after running from pillar to post. But while waiting there, Mr. Narayanrao saw out the window and noted a young lady and her kids wailing and begging the hospital authorities to admit her 40-year old husband who was also infected by COVID and in a very bad state. Narayanrao immediately decided to relinquish his bed, and offered it to the lady. His thought process was, “I have lived a wonderful life to 85, now let the younger ones live.” He went home, no bed, minimal treatment, and passed away a few days later.

Many times we think twice about giving up an object that belongs to us. We don’t want to part with or share our living space, money, food, vehicles, books, cutlery, time and so many other things. This man parted with his life. If there is something to learn about selflessness, compassion and empathy, this is the real-life story that teaches it to me. May he rest in peace.

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Tough times

There are times when it might seem like everything is going against us. It is good to take on any adversity head-on though with this one thought that occurs to only the most spiritual of beings – “Thank you God/Universe for putting me in this position rather than anyone else. Because at least I will be able to bear this situation and it’s consequences, while those around me if subjected to the very same thing, may not survive.”

At other times, those close to you might be going through a tough time. This could be deep rooted karmic retribution at play. Who can really tell, except perhaps those who have truly Realized? In any case, it might seem like there is nothing we can do to help alleviate the pain. At least physically, yes.

But mentally, and emotionally? We can do many things. One, paramount, is prayer. A wonderful opportunity to not just pray, but pray for someone other than always selfishly for ourselves!

There’s a brilliant video I came across recently. A barber got to know that his client was diagnosed with cancer. The client’s hair had begun falling, thanks to chemotherapy. As the client begins to get his head shaved, the barber intermittently shaves his own head too. What a lovely way to show that he cares! The client is moved to tears.

The tag at the end of the video sums it up beautifully. “That’s not your barber anymore, that’s your brother.”

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Talk the walk

Many many years ago, a man and his mentor were at a railway station. They came across an elderly couple, probably in their eighties, their frail bodies clothed in rags and their arms outstretched, begging for alms. The mentor handed his man a crisp 100 rupee note. “Please go and get this changed into smaller denominations.” When the man came back with smaller notes and coins, his mentor told him, “Now please put all of the notes and coins into their begging bowls.”

The mentee did as he was instructed. He then had a follow up question for his mentor. “Sir, I thought you asked me to get the smaller denominations so that you could maybe put 10 rupees into the bowl, and not the full 100. If you anyway wanted to put the 100, then why did you not use the 100 rupee note directly?”

The mentor said, “Two reasons, my dear. First, they are an old couple, and their safety is paramount. If we leave a larger note out there, it is possible or even likely others might thrash them and steal it. Or a policeman might bully them, querying where they found (stole) such a large note. Secondly, it’s a mind trick, in favour of the couple. If their bowl has just one 100 rupee note, it is unlikely they will get more. But if they have several smaller notes and coins, more people might come up and donate. This is because people do not like to be the first and only, but most are happy to follow suit once someone has already raised their hands first.”

The man was elated by the outstanding lesson on empathy he had just learned. Not just in talk, but in walk as well. All glories to such realized souls.

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Carma

At the valet parking area of a renowned 5 star hotel, the owner of an old and tiny Hyundai i10 was waiting for his car to be brought to him.

He watched, as the valets buzzed about, servicing their guests and deftly moving from car to car. One valet drove up in great style in a brand new Mercedes Benz AMG GLE Coupe. The Coupe owner took the keys and handed the valet a crisp couple of notes. The smile on the valet’s face was telling of his satisfaction.

The compact car owner thought to himself, “Wow these valets have it so good. I can’t even dream of driving these sporty beauties. That Mercedes GLE is a special edition model – just 10 of them in the whole world!”

Little did he know the thoughts running in the valet’s mind. “Oh these rich folks – such show-offs. And having to drive their cars? Back and forth, back and forth, from the reception area to the parking lot, a 100 times a day. Can there be anything more repetitive and boring? With the money I make, I barely make ends meet. My school going son would love it so much if I could own even just a simple car. Even an old dilapidated Hyundai i10 would be perfect.”

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Factory reset

“Sir, please install anti-virus, restart your phone / laptop, and then your problem will be resolved.”, said the customer care executive to a worried customer caller. Not anywhere near the first time she said this, and certainly nowhere near the last.

This is not ground breaking advice. We’ve ourselves been at the receiving end of this many times haven’t we? If there’s a tech problem, please restart your device.

Post the restart or the factory reset, things indeed do function smoothly. All of the new apps, software, bloatware, ransomware, malware and whatnotwares that were clogging the device are now taken care of.

But where is the reset button for us human beings? How can we rid ourselves of all the anxiety, stress, burdens, toxic relationships and other problems?

The reset button is called Empathy. If we turn our focus outwards, if we work for others, work for the world, work for nature, then we will focus less on ourselves and our own little problems, and more on others. Unlike with phones and computers though, a reset will not erase both the good and the bad. Instead, our reset buttons retain the good, and eliminate the bad. What more could we want?

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The fan

Captain America just gifted his Shield to a fan.
Iron Man and Spider-Man are fighting to outdo each other on sending even better gifts to this fan.
This tiny 6-year old fan, has bowled all of The Avengers over!
But how?

A gnarling German Shepherd chased after a 4-year old girl.
The fan, her brother, with not a trace of hesitation, bravely stepped in between.
All he wanted, was to save his sister.
He succeeded, but also got in harm’s way.

90 stitches later, he still has a smile on his tiny face.

Makes me think – would I at his age – have been able to act so selflessly?
Makes me think – would I at this age – be able to act so selflessly?

Values come from the inside. And the inside has no connection to the size of the outside.
This little fan has a new fan!

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No firsts among equals

How can we see the Universal Spark / Brahman / Supreme Soul / God / Super-consciousness in everyone?

A disciple was once singing a devotional song in front of my Guru. All the other members in the audience including his co-disciples, just couldn’t take the screeching any longer. Most of them left the room. But my Guru? He just continued enjoying the praises of the Lord. When the song was over, he asked the disciple to sing the song again. And then again. And then he praised him, saying that it was a heartfelt rendition, and that practising more would make him better.

The disciple knew that his singing was terrible, to say the least. When he asked my Guru, how he could enjoy what no one else could, my Guru said, “That is because I look at you as my own child. If your 2-year old son or daughter were to sing, even if totally out of tune, would you not enjoy and revel in the moment?”

Before we can reach the final states of consciousness that Vedanta speaks of, we must first attempt to see those around us as equals. Not from a material status point of view, but as those worthy of our empathy and compassion.

Only if we can see people as our own, can we then treat them as our own. Without this, the higher concepts will remain just that. Conceptual.

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Old is gold?

We feel good when we help others in need. Especially the really destitute.

We may donate old clothes, or old books, an old cycle, old footwear, old blankets or any other items we would have used before.

This is truly fantastic! But what could be even more so?

Donating something brand new. Something that is not a leftover. Specifically buying a brand new dress and donating it. Or buying a brand new book and donating it. Buying a nice pair of shoes and donating it. With the box and wrapping!

We will not just feel good. We will feel great.

Let us think of it this way. If we were at the receiving end, would we prefer the old, or the new?

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The cleanse

A scraggy and scruffy man knocked on the door every weekend. His ask? A few morsels of food for his workday.

His task was unenviable, perhaps even pitiable. Cleaning all the public toilets and septic tanks within his catchment area.

The lady at the door would oblige. Always providing him a decent meal. And also giving him some money to take care of his daughter’s education.

It became fairly obvious that some of this money was being used by him to buy cheap alcohol and get intoxicated.

While others objected with the usual, “He’s not putting the money to good use!”, the lady was firm in her decision to continue her dole outs.

Her rationale? “It is so difficult to even clean one’s own toilet. Here is a man who has to clean 100s of toilets, and that too of others. It is his job yes, but at least he’s doing it well. Maybe the alcohol gets him into a state where he is at least partially unaffected by the stench.”

It is easy to think for ourselves, but often impossible to put ourselves in other’s shoes.

The lady was my wife’s mother. She passed too early. But her life’s actions continue to inspire and live on.

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In others’ shoes

In his 2014 book Hit Refresh, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talks about his penchant for empathy.

Many years ago at an interview, the interviewer asked him what he would do if he came across a 3 month old baby lying on the street wailing. Mr. Nadella immediately said he would call 911, and the police, and an ambulance, and child care services among other things.

The interviewer told him “Satya, it is a baby, you could just pick it up and cradle it in your arms!”

Hardly something that might strike us isn’t it? What if we could use such empathy in our day to day interactions? We would appreciate others’ motivations and circumstances before flying off the handle.

And none of this is for the other person. Being empathetic will only help us – by retaining control over both, the mind, as well as the tongue.

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