“You have given me a wonderful opportunity to serve such a nice person like yourself. As for me, I am content living in this village for the last seventy years of my life. My sons take care of my needs. I need to express gratitude and give back to God and His children. Will you please pray for me and bless me?”

Now the reality sunk in; he merely wanted to please me and give me without expecting anything else in return. Almost instantly I condemned myself for having judged such a noble soul. I left humbled and inspired.

I have met hundreds of people during my travels in India and it’s not easy to remember them. But this man, because he genuinely sought to give without expecting anything in return, etched a permanent place in my heart. In retrospect, if someone’s devotion could so move a skeptic like me, I wondered how the soft-hearted God would feel and see any act of sincere service.

Changing the paradigm

Often we dwell on the thoughts of why am I not happy; what could I do to make myself peaceful? Why do others behave the way they do? And what is wrong with me and the world?

For a day let’s change the paradigm; let’s rise above the self and honestly seek another person’s happiness. The experience then is real. It’s not some mental trick. Instead, a profoundly satisfying experience awaits one who decides to give or contribute.

Can I bring joy to another person’s life? Will my act make a meaningful difference to others? How can I best contribute?

These questions could propel us to a spiritual level of existence.

A higher taste helps us give to others

Aki, a friend of mine often argued with me about the local trains of Mumbai. While I found the peak hour travel disgusting, he exclaimed that it was alright. I probed him on the dense crowd, on how there’s barely any space to even stand inside the trains. He looked at me as if I was crazy.

A few months later he was transferred to a remote but scenic place in Assam. Five years later he returned to Mumbai. We again met often and had our friendly exchanges. One day I casually asked him about his office travel and immediately he began lambasting the Mumbai trains. I was amused because I had previously seen him indifferent to the same train rides. But now he was animated as he expressed how he thinks it’s sickening.

To be continued..

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