Once upon a time a man owned a beautiful garden full of awesome flowers and fruit trees. Melodious and colorful birds tweeted, bees droned and butterflies fluttered about in that garden. It was a lively place, like a piece of paradise. It had a small pond too housing many kinds of lotuses. The owner cared for his garden more than anything else in the world. In particular, he loved a rare flower, a black Himalayan lotus with a heady scent that flowered in all seasons.
One morning, he was tending to the roses and tulips while a nightingale sang most sweetly. He longed to see the bird more closely and went in the direction of the sound. There he saw the young bird pecking at the black lotus. Its petals had come off and the lotus was mostly destroyed. He was furious and hurled a rock at the bird but the nightingale took a swift flight and escaped unscathed.
Grieved and angered, he vowed to catch and kill the bird. Scattering barley, sesame seeds and jaggery near the pond, he spread a net and waited patiently. Surely, a little while later, the nightingale came flying again and noticed the food. She landed on the mesh and ate to her heart’s content but, realized her mistake when it was time to take off; she was stuck.
The man got hold of the bird and clutched it tightly by the neck. “I’ll kill you,” he said.
“Kill me? But, why? The food was lying on the ground. I didn’t steal from your granary.”
“No, not for these grains but because you destroyed my black lotus.”
“I’m sorry,” the nightingale pleaded. “I was only following my food chain. Have mercy. I always thought that the owner of this beautiful garden must be a tender, caring and a loving person. Little did I know…”
The man thought about it and a sense of compassion enveloped him.
“Okay, I’ll let you go.” He loosened his grip.
“I want to tell you a secret, my friend,” the nightingale said. “My vision is penetrating. There’s buried a pot full of gold at the root of the old peepul tree in your garden. It’s yours for the taking.”
The man dug up the pot filled with gold coins and was ecstatic beyond bear.
“I’m curious,” he said to the nightingale perched on the bough. “How come you could see the treasure hidden under the land but couldn’t see the wide net clearly spread on the ground?”
“I had no use or craving for the gold, but I longed to eat the sesame seeds and jaggery. While flying towards the food, all I could see was the food. My desire had made me blind.”
That’s pretty much all one needs to know: desires make us blind. A mad pursuit of endless desires makes one oblivious to what’s already there to be enjoyed. That’s why Buddha called it the root of all suffering and that’s why Krishna preached detachment from the outcome of desires. Desires keep you busy, they keep you on your toes, and above all, they make everything you already have appear small and lacking.
You have a house and the desire to have a bigger house will repeatedly make you feel that what you have is not enough. Your partner loves you but the desire to have more or something else from him or her will make you feel incomplete in the present. The desire to earn more, to have more, to be more, to gain more and so on become great barriers to enjoying the present moment.
I’m not suggesting that you can’t have desires. Sometimes, the journey of pursuing the object of your desire can be an exhilarating one too. Until you reach the exalted state, it’s perfectly fine to have your desires and to pursue them, it’s okay to feel elated upon their fulfillment or feel low when they are not met. It’s human, it’s natural. But, it certainly helps to be conscious of what you are pursuing in life.
It can be a life-changing exercise — to sit down in peace and question the desires you have because once you become aware of your pursuits, you start to see things in a new light. Predominantly because chasing your desires with awareness does not make you blind, because mindfulness doesn’t allow you to lose sight of what you already have. This awareness keeps you positive, it keeps you happy. It allows you to see both the net on the ground and the pot hidden under the soil.
So, do you really want what you really want?