This life is a constant journey of growing and refining who we are. —Paulo Coelho
All of our life experiences are opportunities to learn and grow from. And, every aspect of life can impart a lesson provided we are ready and willing to learn.
In the ancient Hindu devotional scripture called the Srimad Bhagavatam, there is a story of a wise man named Dattatreya, who was asked how he became wise, and who his teacher or guru was.*
He replied that he didn’t have a guru, but many gurus.
He explained that he was fascinated by Nature. By observing and pondering over various aspects in nature, he had gained many life lessons.
Here are some of the powerful lessons that he learned that can inspire and teach us too…
From the earth, Dattatreya learned forgiveness and magnanimity of heart. The earth bears the burden of all the things and beings of the world selflessly, without complaint. Even when people build on it, pollute it, and destroy its land and waters, it continues to forgive, sustain and support them all.
The sun shines down equally on all, saint and sinner alike. It never judges or withholds its heat, light and energy from anyone. From the sun he learned not to judge others but treat everyone equally, spreading warmth and goodness to all.
Space is that which accommodates everything and yet remains untouched by them all. From space he learned how to accommodate and accept everyone and everything that comes into his life with balance, ease and large-heartedness.
Opening the windows to let the air in instantly brings freshness and purity to a room. So too, we can learn to bring cheerfulness and joy to others’ lives.
Also, moving air never stays in one place for long. This teaches us to not live being bogged down with clinging attachments to things and beings around us. Like the air, we can serve others without ego or attachment to the rewards of our actions.
From fire that shines brilliantly and always rises upwards, Dattatreya learned to be morally upright and brilliant in his thinking so as to bring happiness and inspiration to the lives of others.
All living beings need water to survive. Water gives life to all and removes the distress of thirst. The wise man learned that to ease the suffering of others and to support them in times of hardship is a vital service to provide.
Trees exemplify selfless service. They provide shade, shelter and sustenance for all the earth’s beings. The various parts of trees are useful to humans and other living beings. For example, the leaves, the fruits, the flowers, the trunk, the branches, and the sap all provide some utility value. Trees never eat their own fruits or take any of their own flowers or sap for themselves. They exist to be of service of others.
Honeybees gather nectar from the flowers and store it in their hives for themselves. The wise man noticed that they seldom got to keep the honey because honey gatherers who sold honey in the town market would take it away. From this he learned that we should not hoard our wealth and talents but share them with others.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is “What are you doing for others?”—Martin Luther King Jr.
The earth, the sun, space, air, fire, water, trees and honeybees teach us that we are here to use our innate talents and abilities in the service of others and not merely for our own needs.
The earth provides support to all things and beings, the sun spreads it’s light and energy to all, space accommodates and includes everyone, the air brings joy to others, the brilliance of fire lights up the lives of others, water removes others distress, trees give everything they have away, and honeybees teach us that if we hoard our wealth and gifts, they will not stay with us for long.
If we can mirror the quality of selfless service demonstrated by these aspects of nature, it will grow and refine our personality, transform our lives, and the lives of others at the same time.
*Article based on conversations between King Yadu and Dattatreya from the Srimad Bhagavatam. Dattatreya was an ascetic who lived in the forest, reveling in the bliss of his true Self.
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