Monday, March 26, 2012


I've been spending time these last three weeks with my infant niece.

I've always enjoyed hanging out with babies and children, although now I have far less energy than I once did. I have dozens of nieces and nephews and I don't really distinguish between 'sagey' and honorary ones. Relationships originate in the heart and the heart knows no distinctions. It must be a reflection on my relative maturity that with this child, I am noticing and understanding the cliched things people normally say about children.

She really is, like all babies, sthita-prajnya.

People remark on the fact that she greets everyone alike. She lets people approach her. She returns their attention quietly. She does not differentiate between one person and another. She does not know as yet that one person is a close relative, another person is a friend, a third person works in this house. Everyone is the same to her.

She listens. She has her way of communicating. But she also pays attention to what people around her express. She has made us acutely and embarrassingly aware of our verbosity.

She does feel Chennai's sweaty heat. She gets hungry. She gets tired and sleepy. These sensations simply are. She has not learnt to place a value on them as yet. And so she experiences them in the moment, expresses her discomfort in that minute and leaves it completely behind with no endless post-mortem as we do, "It was so hot, I was so thirsty..."

She is completely in the moment. This minute, she is completely absorbed in a paisley motif on the bedspread. We call to her, we have her complete attention.

Are you in front of her, pretending to entertain her? Fine. Is she on her own? Fine. Is there a crowd visiting her? Fine. Is it just the usual suspects? Fine. Has she been on a little excursion today? Fine. Has she been in the same room all day? Fine. Nothing has an ascribed value, a judgment attached. It's all truly the same to her.

I look at her and I listen to us. And I cringe. There's nothing good we can teach her. No value we can add. All she will learn from us is to worry about the past and future; to complain about this and that; to judge people; to miss the love in their voice for its tone or accent; to be discontented and to be moved by the things that don't matter. We take perfectly excellent beings and pretend to raise them. There is a Tamil saying, "Chumma irunda shangai oodi kedutanan"(He took a perfectly good conch and ruined it by blowing on it). She brings that home to me.

I wish for her that all our best efforts to raise her more or less fail, and that she remains sthita-prajnya all her life.

I wish for me, that when I grow up, I become like her. Like I too may have once been. 

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