Let me begin with a story. The story of King Midas.
Do you remember? The story of the king – King Midas – who was obsessed with gold, and he wanted everything around him to be in gold. He wished for the power to turn everything he touched into gold. So, he touched his statue, his garden, his palace, and they all turned to gold.
He was very happy.
One day, while sitting by the riverside, his daughter came running to him. He was happy to see her after a long time. In his rush of emotions, he got up and embraced her. Immediately, she started to turn to gold as well. He immediately pulled back and tried to stop but to no avail. He was shocked, in tears, and started praying to God to return his daughter. But – it could not happen. She had turned into a golden statue.
The king cried and remained unhappy all his life, cursing himself for his wish.
This story has ever since remained with me.
Wish is indeed a strange word.
Before we were born, our parents wished for healthy children. As we grew, we wished for good marks in schools and universities. In our mid 20s, we wished for high paying jobs and later, a compatible spouse and so on. We kept wishing for more and more.
When I was young I desired a lot of things and shared my dreams with my mother.
My mother was a wonderful woman and was educated up to eighth standard. She got married early and settled in Delhi. While growing up, I only saw her in a simple sari, ever smiling and never wanting anything for herself. I always wanted her to wear nice clothes like other aunties in the neighborhood. Whenever I asked her why she dressed so simply, she would simply smile.
I could not understand why she had no wishes.
Then, I was about to complete my school and was getting ready for my college. I started preparing my wardrobe for college (excited to finally let go of the school uniform) which I was happy about. I told my mother that I wish for lots of beautiful sarees, heels, and matching jewelry. She asked me how many clothes and shoes I wanted. I said ‘a lot’ so I could wear a new one every day.
Hearing this my mother told me a story of her friend Geeta.
Geeta was a B.Ed trainee and got married very young to a government officer. She started living in Delhi. As days passed, her husband became a higher official and they started living in a bungalow. After a long time, my mother met Geeta and after initial chitchat, she started to display her wealth, narrating about her foreign trips.
Indeed she was happy.
She said God has fulfilled all her wishes and her only wish was for her children to settle abroad, and they should get nice and stable jobs.
After a few years my mother met Geeta again and she enquired about her children, she said they were well settled in the US and now she only wished to be with them and get a visa. She kept wishing for one thing after another thinking that the next was the only thing she needed to be happy.
Eventually, she could not join her children abroad and started working with a nearby school and realized how happy she could be spending time with children and seeing them learn.
My mother, with this story, suggested that one should make a list of wishes one wants now and in the future. And then review the list and go over them and finally shortlist the wishes that one really wanted. Soon one would realize that the wish list would keep getting smaller and smaller. There are only a few things that we need to stay really happy.
I have always kept a list of things with me and revisited them again and again to focus on the ones that truly give me happiness. I always wanted most of the essential things in life, and not having others does not make me sad or unhappy.
During the lockdown, to keep myself busy, I happened to watch a lot of YouTube videos on Bhagavad-Gita, Vedanta, and Upanishads. I started to question and seek answers like, why is a child born with no ego and a clean conscience? And as they grow, they start to accumulate many desires and wishes, which clouds their mind, hence losing the real essence of life.
Just like our wishes, we believe our lives will go on forever.
The true happiness is to know that our body is the chariot and contains five components. The self is its master, intellect is the charioteer, mind is the reins, senses are the horses and sense objects are the paths.
One who understands this, leads a contented life and knows how much to wish for.
Hematha Iyer is a New Delhi based retired school teacher. Born and raised there, she completed her Bachelors in Education and worked with DTEA Mandir Marg for close to 40 years teaching Biology to students. Today she keeps herself engaged with her two grandchildren, taking classes on spiritual mindfulness and writing posts to share her experiences, views and life lessons.
*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*