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Helping others without feeding own ego

This real life incident happened to me almost 25 years ago.

I used to live in Delhi, with my house located very close to the airport.  One morning I got a phone call from a dear friend. His aged mother, who lived in Kolkata, was critically ill and he and his wife had to reach Kolkata as soon as possible. Since he lived quite far away from the airport (and this is in the pre internet booking days), he requested me to rush to the airport to secure tickets for the first available flight to Kolkata and wait for him there. I immediately left for the airport. Fortunately, there was a flight for Kolkata leaving in a few hours, but unfortunately, it was fully booked. Not giving up, I then requested the security personnel to allow me to meet the Airport Manager. He was a kind person who listened to me patiently and then arranged for 2 tickets via some VIP quota. Soon, my friend and his wife reached the airport and, thankfully, were able to board the flight in time. The next morning, I got a call from him, informing me that his mother had breathed her last a few hours after they had reached.

While I was deeply sad for his loss, somewhere in me, I found a strange feeling of pride (may be arrogance) that due to my efforts, my friend could be with his mother in her last moments. Later, when my friend was back in Delhi, I asked whether his younger brother (who was working in Varanasi) was also able to make it in time. He replied in the affirmative. He recounted that the brother had been away from Varanasi on work-related travel and that they were unable to contact him directly (this was pre- mobile phone era). With great difficulty, they contacted his office in Varanasi who had sent someone to locate him. He then took a passing train and travelled unreserved but was finally able to reach Kolkata in time to be by his mother’s side in her final moments.

I realized that if his brother could reach from a remote area, there was absolutely no reason for me to feel that without my help, my friend would not have made it.  This reminded me of two stories from my childhood which reiterated the point.

Shivaji’s Story 

Once, there was a severe famine in the kingdom of Shivaji. He started a large scale public works project (building forts) to give employment to people. While inspecting the ongoing work, an egoistic thought crossed his mind – “without my help, it would have been very difficult for so many people to survive this famine”. His Guru – Samarth Guru Ramdas – who was alongside him, sensed this arrogance and asked some of the workers to bring to him a particular stone slab. He then ordered the slab to be broken into two parts. When it was broken, they found that there was a hollow inside the stone and some water had seeped into that hollow in which 2 small frogs were swimming. With a mischievous smile, Guru Samarth told Shivaji, “Shiva, you are such a compassionate person that you even took care of supporting these frogs”. The allusion was enough to melt the ego of Shivaji.

A Large Hearted King

There once was a very generous and kind King, who always gave donations to anyone seeking his help. But strangely, he always cast his gaze downwards while giving the donation. When his minister questioned him on this strange behaviour, his answer was, “The Giver is someone else (God) who keeps sending me wealth for donations. I am only a medium. The recipient’s eyes are full of gratitude for me. If I look into his eyes, I may also start believing that I am the giver. To avoid this arrogance, I keep my gaze down.”

Last Word 

Friends, helping people, giving to the needy are all very noble deeds. But never let this feed your Ego. The world does not depend on me. If I do not help a person, someone else may do so. The recipient is not surviving solely because of me. Always thank God while helping others- thank Him for giving you the means to help others and thank Him that he chose you as a conduit for this good deed. Let us stop using the words like “Donation”, “Charity”. Let us start calling it “My offering”.

Friends, helping people, giving to the needy are all very noble deeds. But never let this feed your Ego. The world does not depend on me. If I do not help a person, someone else may do so. The recipient is not surviving solely because of me. Always thank God while helping others- thank Him for giving you the means to help others and thank Him that he chose you as a conduit for this good deed. Let us stop using the words like “Donation”, “Charity”. Let us start calling it “My offering”

(This article was originally published in wisdomofhk.com)

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