At the end of last night’s Satsang class at the Sivananda ashram (which I mentioned in yesterday’s post) the yogi leading the class discussed the importance of not getting too attached to material possessions. In the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture that underpins the philosophy of yoga which the ashram teaches, Swami Sivananda refers to humans as the ‘caretakers’ of everything they come into contact with in life, rather than the owners. We are all, he says, ‘passing pilgrims’ in this world, which is why the whole concept of ownership is one that he discourages.
The yogi gave the example of someone saving up to buy their first house, who feels that in the exchange of deeds they are laying claim to that property and making it their own. Yet the reality is that such an arrangement is only ever temporary because, ultimately, the end of life will sever all such ties. It follows, then, that everything else we humans like to stamp our ownership on is also merely temporary – including our relationships.
I really like the idea of being a ‘caretaker’ rather than an ‘owner.’ To give an example of why, when a person borrows an item of clothing they generally take care of it more than if it were their own, because they know at the end of the day (or week, or month) they’re going to have to give it back (after all, it would be pretty embarrassing giving something back in a much worse state than the one in which it was loaned).
I think that as a society we would do well to stop and think sometimes about the way in which we regard the things – and indeed people – closest to us. If everyone had in mind that they were ‘passing pilgrims’ the world might, I believe, be a better place to pass through.