In ancient India, there lived a woman. She was happily married to a rich merchant and was the proud mother of a bubbly one year old. After a brief illness, her only son died. Her grief was unbearable. Wailing and weeping, she took her child’s lifeless remains from door to door pleading with the townspeople to bring her beautiful child back to life. No one could help her. She was destroyed.
Someone suggested she take her infant to the Buddha. She did. Through her tears and sobs she narrated her tragic story and begged Him to infuse life back into her bundle of joy. The Buddha listened with compassion and said, “Kisa Gautami, there is only one way. Bring me 5 mustard seeds from a household where no deaths have occurred.”
Her eyes lit up with hope. She hurriedly gathered up her bundle and once again, went knocking on each and every door in town. To her utter disappointment, every family had experienced death in one form or another. She realised the lesson that the Buddha had wanted her to learn. Suffering is a part of life and death is inevitable. Kisa Gautami’s eyes were now open. In the light of this knowledge, she could handle her grief. She went on to become an ardent follower of the teachings of Buddha.
Like Kisa Gautami, I have found myself at the feet of the Buddha. His teachings have brought light and lightness to my being. Along the way other divine souls have helped in unique ways.
This is the festive season for most people. Planning meals, choosing stocking fillers, selecting wrapping paper, posting greeting cards and preparing to welcome the New Year. Yay! It’s all happening. But a Saagar-shaped piece is missing. I feel for all the families who will have that vacant chair at their table this year. I hold them close to my heart. As time goes by, it does not get easier. This excerpt on the subject of ‘Pain’ from ‘The Prophet’ speaks to me. I hope it helps you too. I wish you as peaceful a time as possible.
“And a woman spoke, saying, “Tell us of Pain.”
And he said: Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the
Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
NICE guidelines on ‘Bipolar Disorder in Adults’ regarding the role of families and carers state:
“Quality standards recognise the important role families and carers have in supporting adults with bipolar disorder. If appropriate, health and social care practitioners should ensure that family members and carers are involved in the decision‑making process about investigations, treatment and care.”
“Why is it that some psychiatrists sometimes don’t fully appreciate the views of carers and involve them in the care of a patient when NICE guidelines clearly state that it should be otherwise?” I asked a senior psychiatrist casually during a recent conversation. “Traditionally” he said, “doctors were sons and daughters of doctors, their friends and spouses were often doctors and those were the people they spoke with. Carers didn’t fit into that box. It’s a cultural thing, still lingering. Hardest thing to change – a mindset.”
India gets criticised for its caste system. In other countries it exists in other forms – the power dynamic between different groups of people in different strata of society. As the Grenfell tragedy unfolds, I see how the management didn’t take the resident’s concerns seriously. What is the nature of Tenant-Management relationship? Who is disadvantaged?
Any number of guidelines cannot change deep-rooted, unconscious biases. Only humanity can.
Mrs May visited the site but couldn’t speak with the residents for ‘security’ reasons and because she is very tired after her recent election campaign. Being with them would have taken compassion. And humanity. I wonder if this was a Mayfair tower wether she would have felt more secure and less tired.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus wrote this sonnet in 1883 in America to raise funds for the construction of the pedestal on which stands the Statue of Liberty.
The glorious aspiration set out in this poem seems to have been well forgotten and contorted over the years.
It appears as though humanity sits at the verge of self destruction. We refuse to learn lessons from history. All too familiar ugly realities of the past repeat themselves -demonising of a particular religious group resulting in seemingly justified atrocities against humanity, wars in the name of peace and liberty, a conviction of weapons of mass destruction/chemical weapons proven wrong, rightful nuclear assault of another country, false news and propaganda, massive unplanned military operations used as knee-jerk reactions to events in order to overthrow tyrannous regimes, complete lack of meaningful dialogue and statesmanship.