November 21, 2012

Showing off

Showing off is the bigger part of ownership. The enticement of this world is its offer of its material wealth. At least, this is what has come of age in the post industrial revolution world. It has been a continuing process of wealth accumulation using the human trait of greed as that fueling this growth.

My discussion yesterday with a friend brought me to a realization that wealth itself is not what we truly crave for. It’s only a symbol of a higher desire we have -- that of expanding our ego. Our ego is that "havaa-nafs" as we call in Maldives and is accumulated in our inner subconscious over years of nurturing -  within ourselves as the identity we grow up to be, and as a community, as the confluence of our collective consciousness that label us as either a greedy and corrupt society or a sharing and compassionate one. It all depends on our individual levels of these emotions that we grow up with which ultimately transforms into a societal psyche or archetype.

So all this greed arising from our ego makes us accumulate all the external paraphernalia that are the symbols of wealth. The latest model of car, TV, mobile phone, computer, the up-market house, the expanding bank account all are the symbols of this desire for the ego to project the expansion it desires always. But mind you, having these is not enough, for the ego to really thrive, these have to be noticed by others. If another person doesn't say how nice your new mobile phone is and shows the craved admiration, you are not happy or if no one admires your new house you feel flat, because wealth by itself has no meaning to the ego if it’s not admired by others. Just imagine, how would you like to own all the wealth on this earth if you were the only one left on it? It is the elevation of this ego that makes for our worldly happiness, but unfortunately, such happiness is very short-lived, for tomorrow something else will occupy the headlines, and we would be running after that. The ego cannot survive without winning and being in the limelight.

How to get out of this mess? The way is to give the ego less attention and that means being aware of the ego’s whisperings as soon as these arise in the mind. Whenever a selfish desire arises, just being aware that this is the ego’s craft will put up an initial barrier and give us a chance to observe this feeling without reacting to it. Making a habit of this will help us beat the ego into submission. So, a lack of attention to the ego will deflate it and make it cower in its diminishing significance. We must realize that our relentless craving and groping for material wealth is in fact a competition that the ego sustains against our real self -- our soul which we call the 'nafs' that doesn't have this incessant craving for anything material that is manifest in this world of form. The 'nafs' is in fact our little voice of conscience that is often snuffed out by this selfish ego that we harbor within ourselves. Which one we should let win is for us to decide, and that will determine the path in life we decide to take -- one of selfishness or one of grace. God has given that decision to us, by also giving us the faculty to discern -- how to think of right and wrong through our skills of discernment.

So do we want to choose the ‘nafs’ over the ‘hawaa-nafs’, or vice versa?  The choice is ours! 

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