It’s been a while since I’ve blogged our progress on the Pragmatic Hindu. Life has gotten in the way, not of the progress or the classes, but of the time to sit and reflect and write about them. In fact, we are meeting more often now, and I am able to recite, hear and discuss the Gita every other day instead of just once a week.
What’s important is that I can see the progress in everyday life, which is where it counts most. Sure we can all talk very loftily about the ultimate goal and attaining liberation but it’s when the world intervenes and all the samskaras and vasanas of the past along with all the tentacles of powerful desires spread, that our change is best tested. I am currently undergoing just such a test.
We are selling our house this summer. The sign went up in the yard yesterday and as it flapped back and forth in the wind, I felt only the slightest little twinge. This was my dream home, one I never thought I could actually own. After years of living in apartments and moving from place to place nearly every year, we had settled down. Five years ago, excited beyond belief that I had finally attained homeowner status, thrilled that I was able to pick and choose my granite and my tile and my flooring, I celebrated with friends and family. We threw a huge housewarming party and exulted in the excitement of possessing a sprawling four bedroom, three bath, two story home with our very own backyard and a three car garage.
Not content with the mere acquisition of the house, I spent the next few months furnishing every single room, picking out sofas and tables and chairs, desks and carpets and curtains, patio furniture, art. And once the house was full, I focused on the yard, hired a gardener, chose the trees and the flowers and the type of grass, deliberated between building a pool or installing a hot tub. The money flowed out and the possessions piled in until every corner was just right and I was somewhat satisfied.
It has been a good house, a comfortable house, a house that was blessed at its very inception by my Guru who was generous enough to come inaugurate its use with a Chandi Havan and sprinkle holy water all along its periphery. Since then there have been many auspicious occasions and pujas performed on its premises. My brother got married here and it has been a place for my parents, and my mother in law and my son to come and spend time. My parents and I have spent many happy hours on the patio discussing the Gita, my son has retreated here each summer to study and pass his exams and explore nearby Yosemite and Kings Canyon. My dogs have frolicked in the spacious yard and I have grown tomatoes and eggplant and squash and chilis in my garden. My husband and I have lounged in the beautiful backyard and enjoyed the starry nights and the melodious birdsong each morning.
Yes it has been a happy house full of good memories. And yet, five years later, as I stand here and look at that For Sale sign, I am not overwhelmed with sorrow, or attached to the rooms and the furniture and the yard and the garden. I am grateful for the years I have spent here but I am perfectly happy to let it go. However happy, pretty, or comfortable it may have been, I realize now that it is just a house.
We are moving from a rural town where the cost of living is very low to the bustling bay area where housing costs are astronomical. We already know that we can afford very little there. We may be cramped into a tiny apartment for a while and we may eventually find a small older home that we can afford. Five years ago this would have been devastating. I can now contemplate the change with equanimity. I can look at my future home as a place to live, to rest my head, and to continue my sadhana. It is no longer my burning goal to own and furnish and celebrate. What I am choosing instead is to follow a higher purpose, to use my God given talents and work for the common good, even if that involves sacrificing some creature comforts.
Looking back, I can see how just as the Gita warns, desire leads only to more desire. My desire for a home gave birth to the desire for appropriate furniture, and idyllic landscaping and just one more painting and just a few more area rugs, and on and on until now as we attempt to pack, I am aghast at the sheer amount of things I have managed to collect. I have filled bag after bag for Goodwill and yet cannot seem to make a dent in the vast mountains of clothes and knickknacks and sheets and towels and placemats and furniture.
Knowing now how desire leads to desire and how the lure of material possessions leads us not only into debt but away from peace and tranquility, I have vowed not to acquire any more than we absolutely need to live our lives in modest comfort. This clutter, which is what it looks like to me now, clearly reflects the clutter within my mind, the longings and the cravings and the compulsion to possess. I am intent as I clear the shelves in each room, to also clear the shelves of my mind, and make them clutter free.
With the Gita as my guide and God as my charioteer, I too like Arjuna want to fight the good fight for realization with as little to weigh me down as possible. It’s enough that we all come burdened with our past samskaras and must do battle with ever present temptations. Why saddle ourselves on this difficult path with the weight of useless possessions as well? I bid goodbye to my house with gratitude and joy, ready to live wherever God places me and determined to live simply, with my eyes fixed on the only prize worth having.
Image: Raja Ravi Varma via Creative Commons