My son acquired a puppy recently and named him Ethan. Small and playful, he is mostly a bundle of fun and keeps everybody entertained. At times, he just sits in a corner and goes philosophic on everyone. In many ways, he is my alter-ego.
The last time I visited my son and his family, Ethan was looking out of the windowpane towards the backyard and crying. Yes, dogs can cry, too; they can have small tear drops in their eyes.
I picked up Ethan, but he kept looking outside the window and kept on crying. Finally, I saw what he was looking at – a tiny squirrel playing in the yard, looking directly at him and then running away. She was teasing Ethan.
I realized that Ethan was deeply, madly in love. He wanted the squirrel more than anything else in his life, but he just couldn’t get past the windowpane. There was a glass door to the backyard, but my son and my daughter-in-law always kept it closed.
I watched the scene play out for a while but then I couldn’t take it anymore. I opened the door and let Ethan out.
Now, Ethan was very happy as his problem was solved. He ran towards the squirrel, but she just kept running further away from him. However, she never ventured too far away, always staying within teasing distance of him. She kept teasing him until he finally gave up and sat down on the grass.
Then the squirrel approached him with a smile, while maintaining a safe distance. The two became friends and had great fun together, but Ethan eventually discovered they could not get too close to each other; they were of different species. Over time, Ethan and the squirrel learned to co-exist together, while maintaining a respectful distance.
When Ethan went out for walks with his owners, he would still chase squirrels, but he never caught any. This never stopped him from trying.
The story of Ethan and the squirrels pretty much describes our own relationship with Maya, or the attraction of material things. The squirrel is symbolic of Maya, a creature that keeps teasing us. It is all powerful, it is the biggest driving force in many peoples’ lives.
However, when we run after Maya, it simply runs away from us. The more we chase it, the more it wants to get further away. It keeps enticing us, but we never quite get to where we want to be, in terms of material things.
Some people desperately try to make money by any means, but they are never satisfied with what they get. The more they get, the more they want. If we make a million dollars, we want the next million, too, and the process never stops. When we have more money, we desire a higher standard of living – perhaps a better house or a bigger car, or more and more luxuries. We want to look better, we want better cosmetics, better clothes, more creature comforts. Instead of eating in a dhaba, we want similar food served in a silver thali. Hence Maya is always an elusive target, the goalpost keeps shifting and we can never quite get there.
When we stop running towards it, Maya comes to us on its own. If we do our job well, whatever our profession might be, then Maya is always a close companion. It happens naturally, we don’t have do anything special. Also, when Maya approaches us herself, we are satisfied with what we get. We may not get a lot, but whatever we get is enough for our needs.
Like Ethan, we should settle down in one place, and let Maya come and play with us. We can never own it, but it’s a useful partner bringing great satisfaction to our life.