The striped cat which was the sole occupant of my Quarters before I moved in will return to its habit of tip toeing to my legs as I sit on the porch in the winter mornings. It would arrive and lie down. Maybe roll over. Then thoroughly soak the sun into its gorgeous fur. Then it would stand up, soundlessly arch its back and stretch its leg and go away as quietly as it came. And all through the season’s mornings it will religiously repeat the act. I never miss its morning ritual because observing its peaceful movements reinforces my love for the mundane. Whenever I look at the creature, I want to be content with my life. Please do not think that I'm not alive to the sea of differences between the life of a cat and that of mine. But the basics don't differ that much. I mean it has to hunt for food and with increased pest control measures a urban cat has to face a far greater struggle for filling its belly than it once used to. It has to find a shelter. That isn't cake walk either. I've seen it being shunned by many. It even goes through its share of sickness and loneliness. Therefore I am led to think that in a way, within so much trouble, its peaceful movements don it with a monk like appearance. That word in turn reminds me of a friend who, vexed by a certain disappointment, fumed that he wants to give up everything and proceed to some faraway place, a sort of a refuge from worldly troubles and live like a monk. I asked him what good it would do.
“It would save me from all the stress and unhappiness' he'd answered immediately. I had no point to make to him at that time. Not because I was not in agreement with him but because there was no way I could know if he was wrong or right. When I recall that conversation I kind of feel compelled to reach out to him and tell him that I may have finally understood what it takes to be a monk. And it may not necessarily involve running away.
As going through a bit of life has taught me, a real monk would perhaps be someone who would remain open to the idea of pain and pleasure alike. Not shy away from either. Indulge. Taste a bit of things that men are supposed to know in their lifetimes. Bond with an open heart, enjoy the flavour of those ties and let go when they insist to drift, make peace with heartbreaks that may occur because of them. Savour the uplifting sensation of victories as much as absorb the lessons mistakes teach. Nurture in our heart some compassion for the world and most importantly for ourselves. Accept that it's alright to not be as provided for as a very prosperous friend or an affluent neighbour. Never underestimate the strength of hope. In short, live without malice. A true monk would be a man right in the heart of the world, sailing on its mysterious waters, discovering and learning and exploring and not someone who's cut off from all those things.
I doubt that if I say this to you my friend, the unremitting cynic that you used to be, you may instantly critique 'What about happiness? Aren’t we doomed to never stop looking for it in vain?’ Then I would say to you that happiness is a mirage. It may exist everywhere for some and nowhere for others. Most people think they are looking for happiness when all they really need to find is contentment. The dangers of searching for happiness also lies in the tragedy that it rarely comes when one is looking for it. As Ruskin Bond says ‘It is as elusive as butterfly and we may never pursue it. If we stay very still it may come and settle on our hand. But only briefly...'
Old friend, I'm not sure if you actually hid yourself from the world to become a monk. And if you did, whether that brought you what you wanted. But if you’ve stayed back, I urge you to spend a couple of mornings with me at my place. Put your leg right by my side so that you can connect with the cat. And only then I can begin to reason with you, if need still be, that it takes something else altogether to not be sad than losing ourselves on a path away to the high mountains. That the clues are all here, right in the very places we live, walk and sleep in. That things that you’re worried about, things like disappointment and stress would always be. That the secret to life is living it regardless. Looking for its light and its shadow under the sky of its struggles. It always has been man's destiny.