Don’t be proud about wealth, people and youth. Time can snatch them away in a second. — Adi Sankara, Bhaja Govindam Verse 11
What are people most scared of losing? What am I most scared of losing?
Three popular answers: wealth, loved ones, and youth. Losing money, losing our loved ones and growing old are real fears. They are a part and parcel of being human.
Though these fears are natural, they keep us from embracing life in its entirety.
Adi Sankara makes a statement of fact in the Bhaja Govindam: Life can snatch away all these three in a second.
Adi Sankara, therefore, urges us not to be proud of possessing wealth, people, or youth. I think a parallel corollary is to get over the fear of losing wealth, family, and youth.
We See Riches to Rags Stories All the Time
Tabloids are filled with news about celebrities filing for bankruptcy.
One day they are millionaires, and the next day they are penniless.
True, they could have made better financial decisions, they could have been prudent, all that.
A better example is a CEO whose company has gone bankrupt. From being one of the most powerful people, he has plummeted.
We see how fortune fluctuates in people’s lives all the time.
I Have Seen People Whose Families Lost All Their Wealth
I have seen people whose families lost it all.
They struggled to come to terms with it. Shock. Shame. Ignominy. There were several factors that came into play.
Seeing them gave me a glimpse of what it means to lose money.
Reflecting on their shock made me appreciate the practices of the ancient stoics. They would practice living minimally. “What is the worst that could happen to me?”, they would ask themselves. And proceed to make peace with that.
It really is not about what happens to us. Our responses determine whether we choose happiness or the lack thereof.
That Close Friend Who You Thought Would be a Friend for Life
In college, I had a close friend.
I thought we would be friends for life. We lent a sympathetic ear to each other in times of difficulty. We shared plenty of good moments.
One day, we just stopped talking. For no good reason. My best recollection is that we had something resembling a fight, which we never stopped to reconcile.
We just stopped being friends.
When we were friends, it never struck me that we would stop being friends.
Adi Sankara was right — in a matter of seconds, a cherished friendship fell to pieces for no real reason.
Has It Been 20 Years Since I Joined College?
It felt like I joined college a few weeks back.
A look in the mirror reminded me that it has been 20 years since I joined college.
Where did all these years go?
For several years, people referred to me as a “young” person. Today, that baton is passed to the next generation.
College kids should be required to purchase a sweatshirt that reads “You will not stay young forever!”
Reflection Helps Overcome Fears
Oh Arjuna, why should you suffer over something inevitable? — Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita
People live lives compulsively.
Eat, drink and make merry is touted as the good life.
Reflection is one of the most powerful life exercises.
Being rich is contingent on several factors. One’s own abilities and hard work, yes. Being in the right place at the right time is of supreme importance. The internet age has given people unimaginable opportunities. These opportunities would have been non-existent 40 years ago. Wealth should, therefore, be seen with a lens of quiet gratitude and not as a symbol of achievement or pride.
Our loved ones bring warmth to our lives. Every relationship, however, is temporary. It will end one day. If we are armed with this knowledge, we will not insist that relationships remain infinite. We will cherish them dearly. We will not fear losing them.
Growing old is inevitable. As Krishna told Arjuna, why grieve over something inevitable?
If we can get over our fear of losing money, people, and youth, we take a step forward towards happiness.
Treating Ourselves With Love
Practicing self-love is a prerequisite to leading a good life.
If we love ourselves no matter what, we would guard our well-being fiercely.
What better way to protect our well-being than to be even when life happens?
Intellectual acceptance is the first step. In spite of gaining newfound wisdom, when we relapse into our old ways, we must go easy on ourselves.
We are in it for the long run.
In the short run, we will make peace with our fear of losing wealth, people, or beauty.
In the long run, we will attempt to transcend these fears.
To lead a happy life.
I wrote this piece in response to the following writing prompt from Refresh the Soul’s 30-day writing challenge:
What are you the most scared of losing, and what would you truly lose if you lost it?
Image Credit: Alexander Mils on Unsplash
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