One of the very hardest concepts in Vedic philosophy is that of non-attachment.
The idea is that this whole world is an illusion, it's like we're in a stage play. So we play our parts, but when it's over, we go back stage to our real lives. People who have realized this and live with it are enlightened, and are therefore blissful all the time, not bothered by the little and big frustrations of life.
They are able to enjoy the physical things in life, having nice things, etc. but they are not attached to them. They are not bothered when anything goes away because they know that everything is God and things changing hands or changing shape is not really a change at all.
A very difficult ideal to live up to, but I had a nice, what should have been easy, opportunity to practice non-attachment this morning and I failed.
Here's the scenario:
It's raining a little bit today. Not heavy rain, just gray and drizzly. I had finished walking the dog, then I locked up the apartment and headed toward my car to go to dance class. There was a boy standing under the apartment awning.
He's someone we've had some trouble with in the past. This winter there was extremely heavy snowfall and this boy went around offering to shovel out cars for money. At first he was asking a ridiculously high amount and we said no. Later he came back and said he would do it for $20 and we agreed. We gave him the money. He never shoveled the car. I pestered him about it for days, hunting him down when he was playing with his friends. I finally just gave up. So, my boyfriend was out the money and had to shovel both our cars out. The history with this boy isn't great.
He asked me if I had an umbrella he could use because he had to go and stand at the bus stop.
I almost never use an umbrella, but I do have one. I have one that I am extremely attached to. My father got it for me at a biomedical conference and it has a huge ad for an ear infection drug on it. He got two of them, one for each of us and so we've had these matching umbrellas for years and years. Of all the gifts my dad has given me over the years, that umbrella and a kid's book written in Dutch are the only ones I'm really attached to.
I love that umbrella and I did not want to lend it to an unreliable person.
However, this one should have been an easy answer. There is a person in front of me with a need and I have something to fulfill that need.
I went to the car to look for it, all the while wondering what I would do if I found it. Could I really hand it over to this child? I didn't find it and I apologized to him and got in the car. Then I saw the umbrella in the front seat, where I had not looked (maybe subconsciously I knew it was there?) I could have run after him to give it to him, but I didn't.
This probably seems like not a big deal at all, but I try to take advantage of every opportunity life gives me. I don't want to miss learning and growing chances because becoming enlightened is my main ambition in life.
I'll have to try better next time, but even now looking back on it, my stomach churns at the thought of giving anyone my beloved umbrella. Sigh.