We collect things because our hearts are empty. – Chinmaya
What is an empty heart?
An empty heart is a heart devoid of love for God. Such a heart is ruled by the ego. An ego-ruled heart is a brooding ground for all vices in life.
A young American soldier used to attend Sadhu Vaswani’s Gita class at Karachi regularly. He was stationed at Mauripur, about 10 miles away from Karachi. In spite of that, every Saturday he would make this distance by jeep or otherwise and always managed to reach the class on time.
One Saturday evening he was absent. When he came on the following Saturday, others asked him the reason for his absence.
He said, “A set of new weapons had arrived from the States and I had to test them. This kept me busy till late in the night. And much against my wishes, I had to remain absent from the Gita class.”
Then turning to Vaswani, he asked with a grim face, “Master! Do you think these weapons of war will save humanity?”
Sadhu Vaswani replied, “In wisdom, not in weapons of war, is the hope of this broken, bleeding world. And wisdom is of the heart.”
All the wars and destructions, crimes and bloodsheds, scams and corruptions, rapes and murders that we witness in the world come from one source – an empty heart.
True education makes our hearts contented and fulfilled. Such a fulfilled heart finds joy not in hoarding and aggrandizing, but in giving, loving and sharing.
In the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, an incident happened which touched the hearts of millions all over the world.
The scene was the final of men’s high jump. Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi was facing Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim in the final. Both of them jumped 2.37 meters and were on par. Olympic officials gave three more attempts to each of them, but they were unable to reach more than 2.37 meters.
One more attempt was given to two both of them. But Tamberi withdrew from the last attempt due to a serious leg injury. This was the moment when there was no other opponent in front of Barshim, the moment when he could have easily approached the gold alone.
Barshim approached the official, “If I withdraw from the final attempt, can we share the gold between the two of us?”
The official checked the rules of the game and said, “Yes. If you withdraw, then the gold will be shared between the two of you.”
Barshim then had nothing to think about. He announced his withdrawal from the last attempt. Seeing this, the Italian opponent Tamberi was in tears! He ran and hugged Barshim, unable to express his joy and gratitude.
Empty hearts grumble and complain, fight and die miserably. Fulfilled hearts cooperate and adjust, share and celebrate.
Manikavachakar was one of the greatest saints of Tamil Nadu. He was a saint, poet and scholar. One day he was caught unaware by a sudden downpour of rain. As he was trying to find some shelter, he noticed a short length of dry floor on the raised veranda of a house. The inmates of the house were fast asleep behind the closed doors. He was happy that by God’s grace he had found a place to rest. He rested his head on his arm and stretched his legs and fell asleep.
He was aroused from sleep by the noise of hurried footsteps on the veranda. He saw a man fully drenched. Manikavachakar welcomed him and said, “Please come, sir. We may not be able to lie down, but we have enough space to sit. We shall sit and softly sing bhajans.”
After few minutes another man came running into the veranda. Manikavachakar greeted him and said, “Please come, sir. We may not be able to sit, but there is enough standing space for three. Let us stand and spend the night chanting the Divine Name.”
No doubt there is a joy in conquering others, in proving oneself superior, and in taking revenge. But these are meant for the egoistic empty hearts. The wise ones never revel in these inferior base joys. Their ways are of service and surrender.
Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel became the Deputy Prime Minister when Jawaharlal Nehru was appointed the Prime Minister of India. Patel was a true Gandhian and so was his daughter, Maniben.
One day, Mahavir Tyagi, a family friend of Patel, happened to visit Patel’s home. He saw Maniben engaged in household chores. She wore an old Khadi Sari patched up here and there. Mahavir Tyagi could not bear to see the daughter of the Deputy Prime Minister of India dressed thus and engaged in household chores.
He said, “Daughter, you should not be miserly like this. You are supposed to live like a princess. Don’t you think your way of living, dressing and behaving will be a disgrace on your father’s status?”
Maniben smiled and replied calmly, “Tyagiji, why should I bring a bad name to my father? I feel neither sad nor humiliated to wear this Sari with some patches because it is made out of yarn spun by myself. There is nothing wrong if a woman does her own household work. It is her duty. She must learn to live with the minimum and serve the maximum. I am proud of my father who has taught these important values of life.”
Tyagi became silent not knowing what to advise. Maniben continued, “Tyagiji, true happiness in life comes not from political power or luxurious lifestyle, but from a joyous heart. Be humble, love all, serve all, and be ever content – these are the sure ways to experience this joy of the heart. See how Bapuji (Gandhiji) and father live these principles in their day-to-day life and inspire millions to walk this path! We also must follow their footsteps if we want to experience true fulfilment in our lives.”
As Mahavir Tyagi sat there wondering at her simplicity, wisdom and maturity, Maniben, with her usual smile on her face, hurried into the inner apartments to busy herself with the household chores.
When Maniben went in, Dr Susheela Nayar who was watching all these happenings, spoke to Tyagi, “Sir! You don’t seem to have understood Maniben. She is a Karma Yogi who considers her work as worship. Right from morning till evening she keeps herself busy. She cleanses the vessels, washes the clothes of all members of the family, cooks food for all and whenever she finds time, she will be at her spinning wheel. She not only spins yarn but also makes and stitches dresses for all. She does not waste anything. When her Sari is torn to pieces, she will patch up two dhotis of her father and wear them. She is a living example of ‘simple living and high thinking’ which Gandhiji has taught all of us.”
Blessed indeed are they who have learnt this art of maintaining a joyful heart amidst the ups and downs of life.
A lady, who was over 90 years old, after the departure of her beloved husband, and having no children and no one in the family to care for her, decided to move to a nursing home.
After arriving at the nursing home, she had to wait patiently in the lobby for hours before getting her room allotted. Finally, the room was ready, and an attendant led the lady to her room. As they were walking along the veranda, the attendant gave a verbal description of the tiny space that she was meant to occupy.
“O so beautiful! So nice! I love it.” The lady expressed with great enthusiasm.
“Madam, you haven’t even seen the room yet!” The attendant remarked smilingly.
“Well, my joy has nothing to do with the room,” the lady replied.
To the confused attendant, the lady replied, “Whether I like my room or not, doesn’t depend on the size of the room or how the furniture is arranged. It entirely depends on how I arrange my mind. Happiness is something you can decide ahead of time. And I have already decided to love my room, to love the people around me, to love my life. It is a decision that I make every morning when I wake up. You know what, the greatest asset we all have is the power to choose how we feel.”
The lady continued speaking, as the attendant listened attentively with her mouth wide open.
“I can spend my entire day in bed thinking of the pain I am in, focusing on the parts of my body that no longer work… or I can get out of bed and be thankful for those body-parts that do work.
“I can brood on what I lack in life and become miserable. Or I can think of all that the Lord has blessed me with and be happy. I have decided to be happy…”
The choice is ours – to complain or to be grateful, to hate or to love, to be disturbed or to be peaceful, to have an empty heart or to have a fulfilled one.
May we make the right choice and live well.
O M T A T S A T