Change, they say, is the only constant in life. The Buddhists call this world of ceaseless change samsara — which means incessantly in motion.
In keeping with the dual nature of the manifested world, a part of us constantly craves for change in the hope of a better tomorrow. We paint a future where all our dreams are realised and all our problems have vanished — and another part of us wants to hold on to the comfort of the known and the familiar. Between the two, our life flows.
Man is known to live in regret — shokha — of his past, attachment — moh — to his present and an innate dread — bhay — for his future. This makes him cling to his present circumstances — no matter how uncomfortable or stagnant the situation. Much as we prefer the known devil to the unknown angel, who can stop the wheel of life from ringing in ‘change’?
But what is it about ‘change’ that we dread the most? Any drastic change — for better or for worse — is known to trigger depression in most people. But while some people manage to come to terms with it sooner or later, for some it’s an excruciatingly painful exercise.
Such people feel completely vulnerable to change and take much longer to adapt to their new surroundings. They feel uprooted and insecure without the familiar and the known. This is because they are unable to let go of their past attachments — the loss of the familiarity and the sense of security that they derived from their surroundings is as difficult to deal with as the loss of someone dear. They almost envy people who adapt to their new environment like fish to water — people who smell new possibilities and new opportunities in their new environment.
But for those who take a long time to grow roots, is their attachment to ‘inanimate objects’ justified, or is there more to it than meets the eye?
People who don’t adapt easily to their new surroundings are often accused of being overtly sentimental and clingy, but in all fairness, to them their feelings are justified. Moh is one of the contaminants that we humans feed our energy to when we operate as the ego-self — and it is a cause of our suffering.
We all hold on to our old clothes, books, albums, furniture…because we derive a sense of security that only the old and the familiar can lend. These things are an extension of our being. They are witness to a special phase of our life and are precious reminders of it. It is for this reason that for all it’s virtue, during our spring cleaning session, we’d rather part with relatively new things than with these priceless and precious memorabilia of our personal history.
Human life is defined by relationships and these relationships are not just forged with sentient beings, but by insentient objects too. This is because each atom of the cosmos contains within it a fragment of consciousness. It maybe minimal in inert objects, but it is present even in the densest matter. And strange as it might seem, we share a karmic account with these inanimate objects too. Sometimes, things travel to us from across the seas and sometimes our most guarded objects get lost or are stolen from us. At other times, we are forced to abandon them.
But it is the presence of consciousness that binds us to these inanimate objects and parting with them is justifiably painful. It is our obsession with them that is unhealthy because nothing here is worth holding on to. Cherish the sentiment and move on.
When we get stuck — whether it’s with people or things — we close our hearts to new relationships and new experiences. The horizon is vast and life is short. Don’t get stuck in the past — embrace the change and all that it has to offer. Remember, this too shall pass — like all things of the past. And that is the ‘suchness’ — tathagata — of life.