What Do You See?

What Do You See?
‘Everywhere you look, you see what you are looking for. Were you looking for God, everywhere you look, you see God’.
– Ram Dass

There is an incident from the Mahabharata. It is said that Narada Muni visited the kingdom of the Kurus and a discussion came up on who is the worthy administrator between the princes Duryodhana and Yudhishthira. Narada assigned both of them a simple task and told them that he would meet them after a year to know of their results.

A year passed and Narada came back to meet the princes. ‘So, how did it go?’ he enquired gently. Both the princes shook their heads to mean no. Then Narada asked them about it.

Duryodhana said, ‘You asked me to find one good person. I searched the kingdom high and low, but I could not find one good person. They all had some flaws!’

Then Narada looked at Yudhishthira. The latter explained, ‘You asked me to find one bad person. I travelled all across the kingdom. I couldn’t find a single bad person’.

‘How?!’ Duryodhana retorted quickly.

‘There is God in every human being. When I see God, how can I see what’s wrong with them,’ answered Yudhishthira.

I think about this episode often. I don’t know if it actually features in the Mahabharata or if it is a folklore. It carries a valuable lesson for me and my life changed with that. Often we walk into relationships, even offices and classrooms and expect to see absolute strangers who we demand be kind to us. In reciprocal, are we kind to the people we meet? Do we approach everybody – known and unknown – with good faith? I started doing so, after I read that story.

So what changed? My ability to accept people for who they are, animals and beings for what they are, and the world for what it is. When the layers of differences are peeled away one after the other – name, form, characteristic – only one identity remains. That of God. And when you love God, you can love the world.

I had seen friends around me breaking up over the most trivial issues, family members fighting over property, people being cruel to animals, wasteful with natural resources. I was annoyed by my own inability to treat everyone equally with love. With some people, I was fully blind to their faults. With others, I could see no good. But then I started applying the Yudhishthira technique. Seeing God in people. Loving them as I would God. It was difficult to start with, but now, I believe I have made considerable progress.

I no longer hold on to grudges. I let insults slide by easily. I am more giving and understanding. No one seems like a stranger. And best of all, I can make friends easily, be it with florists, tea-sellers, entrepreneurs, bureaucrats, monks or children. I approach them with good faith, they respond with goodness. If it fails, I still try to operate from a place of love and respect.

I also believe that this has helped me accept myself better. I am not hard on myself or punishing myself for unrealistic goals and expectations. I am kinder when I fail, and I am encouraging when I try again. In my heart, it feels like I know there is goodness to make up for all the faults of the world around me and for the failings within me.

And then, it always, always helps to remind oneself that the world is nothing but a manifestation of the very God I pray to. Call that power by any name – Shiva, Krishna, Shakti. You look carefully, you will also see.

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Chinmaya Udghosh