Q: How do I use every opportunity, even every hardship that comes my way, as a stepping stone for my growth?
Sadhguru: How to use everything and everyone for your growth? First of all, you grow in gratitude, not in benevolence. I don’t want you to become benevolent. I want you to become full of gratitude. Benevolent people, after some time, become uncaring people. Gautama gave one sutra where he said, “It is hard to understand that by giving away your food to someone else, you become stronger, not weaker.” How can you give away your food and be stronger? Giving away things which are plentiful to you is not what this is about. Giving away what one needs most, one’s very sustenance itself, is what leads you closer to the Divine.
A monk is hungry most of the time. He only begs for his food once a day and eats. Today, someone may give a little. Another day he might get much less. Whatever he gets, the practice was that he begged only at one house per day and there would be times where he would get nothing. Over a period of time, they relaxed this “one house” rule and extended it to three houses because people became more cautious with their giving. So monks were constantly hungry, and Gautama is saying that if you give away your own food, you become stronger, not weaker. This is hard to understand, but it’s true.
A Story From Auschwitz
There is a wonderful true story, which happened during World War II in the ill-famed German concentration camp, Auschwitz. Numbers were being called out and people were being led to the extermination area. Numbers were called at random, or the weak and the old who couldn’t work were chosen. If your number was called, you were going to your death.
There was a man whose number was called and he was terrified. He didn’t want to die. There was a Christian missionary next to him, whose number was not called. Seeing the man’s fear, he said, “Don’t fear. I will take your place.” The man felt ashamed, but at the same time could not refuse the offer. He wanted to live. The missionary was killed.
Later, the Germans lost the war and our man was freed. For many years he lived with this sense of defeat and shame and later narrated this incident in his life. He saw that there was simply no point, because his life itself was someone else’s charity. It was because of another man’s greatness that he was living. Otherwise, he would have died that day – it was his number.
The missionary didn’t know him – he was not a friend, a father, a son or anything. Just to ease his fear and suffering, he took the call. That man will know life – that man who went, not the man who stayed back. Only he can experience a certain strength and power within himself that somebody who is trying to protect himself will never experience.
This does not mean you have to go sacrifice yourself or some such nonsense. The man who went to his death was not thinking in terms of sacrifice. He was not waiting to sacrifice himself for somebody else. At that moment, he saw what was needed and just did it without a second thought. That’s fantastic. But if you are trying to sacrifice yourself because you are going to get strength, or you are going to go to heaven, that’s not it.
If you can run your life without the offer of heaven, you are on the path. But if by taking the offer and cutting a deal you can still run in the right direction, go ahead and do it. If such maturity comes to you that you don’t need any deals and you can still do it, it is good. If you have grown out of this limitation that something has to be offered for you to do something, where no increments are needed and you are still willing to work overtime, then you have a different kind of strength. The man who does only as much as is needed will only get that much. He will always remain a beggar in his life. He will never know what strength really is, he will never know what Divinity is, simply because Divinity does everything purposelessly. Just see! Everything is done purposelessly.
Editor’s Note: Excerpted from Mystic’s Musings. Not for the faint-hearted, this book deftly guides us with answers about reality that transcend our fears, angers, hopes, and struggles. Sadhguru keeps us teetering on the edge of logic and captivates us with his answers to questions relating to life, death, rebirth, suffering, karma, and the journey of the Self. Download the sample pdf or purchase the ebook.