by Vishakha Devi Dasi
The first day of nursery school delivers a lesson for mom.
Since nursery school was to be a new experience for our two- year-old, on the first morning I stayed in the school to help her adjust. For a while she clung to me, apprehensive, until she became intrigued by some toys. Finding one she particularly liked, she held it tightly and declared to the other children, “Mine.” As it was clear she was feeling comfortable in the new place, I soon walked home, reflecting on her declaration.
Nothing in that house was hers, yet when she found something that attracted her she decided it was “mine.”
And that’s exactly what I’ve done. I came into this world empty-handed, I’ll leave empty-handed, and in the interim I declare so many things “mine:” “my comfortable three-bedroom home,” “my bright-eyed, curly-haired two-year-old,” “my sleek Power Macintosh.” As possessing that toy gave my daughter a sense of belonging and importance, so thinking that I possess this or that gives me a similar sense.
One may argue, “But that toy wasn’t your daughter’s—she had no right to claim it. Your case is different. You bought your house and computer; you created your family.”
And in one sense, that’s true. But in a higher sense, it’s not. Take our home. I can’t create any of the raw materials—the wood, sand, water, metal—that went into making it. As for the money I contributed toward buying it, whatever talent I used to earn that money also isn’t mine because it can be taken away at any moment. If talent or intelligence were actually mine, they couldn’t be taken from me. But they can because they are coming from elsewhere—from God, from Lord Krishna. And earth, water, and wood are His energies; no person, however powerful, can create these.
Many books of wisdom discourage the tendency to grow attached to what we cannot keep. For example, the Bhagavad- gita says that the Supreme Lord Krishna is the original, supreme creator, proprietor, and enjoyer of all that be. So in fact nothing is mine. Everything is His, and He has kindly allotted me a tiny portion of His possessions.
Even though I take care of “my” house, family, and money, I can’t claim them as my own. I’m like a bank teller, who handles the bank’s money but can’t claim it. A bank teller who decides, “Oh, I have thousands of dollars at my disposal. Let me use some however I please,” is liable to lose everything—job, wages, freedom, and respectability.
Similarly, because I think something is “mine,” I’m disturbed by anxiety. I worry that what I have is not enough, or that I may lose it. The very pleasure I sought by acquiring these things eludes me, and on top of that, I stay entrapped in material consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada has explained that for personal (as well as national and international) peace we should accept that everything belongs to God, that it is all His to enjoy, and that our function and duty is to use whatever He has allotted us in His service. That realization will free us from hankering and lamenting, and by freeing us of the encumbrance of anxiety, allow us to become happy.
The toy horse my daughter had defiantly claimed that morning was a practically worthless plastic imitation of a real horse. From a spiritual view, the material assets I claim are also valueless. Why? Because, for one, they’re temporary. I’ll have to leave them behind when I die. But beyond that, when compared to my natural life—an eternal life of bliss and knowledge in the spiritual world—my prize material possessions are inconsequential, unless I use them in the service of Krishna and His devotees.
In the afternoon, when I went back to pick up my daughter I was a little worried. That tiny horse she’d claimed could have led to tantrums, a big fight, and a frazzled teacher. With relief I learned that shortly after I’d left, my daughter forgot about “her” toy when the teacher had encouraged her to sing with the other children. May I be similarly guided away from “my” things and drawn to Krishna and His service.